For the first time in program history, the Mississippi State Bulldogs are headed to the College World Series final. Hunter Renfroe hit a three-run bomb and a typically stingy outing from its relief corps carried the Bulldogs to a 4-1 victory over Oregon State Friday afternoon, extending their surprise run through the NCAA Tournament.
The game began as a defensive struggle through the first three innings, but Mississippi State managed to open the scoring in the fourth. After a leadoff groundout and a single from Brett Pirtle, a double deep into the left-center gap from Wes Rea put two men in scoring position for the Dogs. An infield single brought the first run of the game across the plate and moved Rea to third, but the big man was called out at the plate on the next play when he tried to score on a fly-out in foul territory. The replay later showed he was able to slide under the tag, but that didn't help during the game.
It looked like it'd be a quick inning for OSU in the bottom of the fifth, but consecutive singles suddenly put the Bulldogs in business when Renfroe, drafted No. 13 overall by the Padres, took Beavers starting pitcher Andrew Moore for a ride over the left field fence, crushing a three-run homer to put Mississippi State up 4-0.
Two singles later, Oregon State coach Pat Casey had seen enough and pulled Moore after just 4⅔ -- his shortest start of the year. It was a disappointing finish to an otherwise stellar freshman season for Moore as he entered the game with a 14-2 record and a 1.79 ERA.
The Beavers' only run of the game came in the sixth when Andy Peterson knocked an RBI single up the middle to make it 4-1.
It was a frustrating day at the plate for O-regon State slugger Michael Conforto who went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. He did make a pair of phenomenal defensive plays in left field, however -- both at the expense of Rea. The first came in the bottom of the second when Rea hammered a ball deep into left-center, but he was robbed of a base hit when Conforto made a leaping grab and crashed into the outfield fence. Two innings later, it was Conforto that threw out Rea at the plate to end the frame.
Kendall Graveman earned the win for Mississippi State, going 5⅔ with four hits and one run. He then handed the ball off to Ross Mitchell who carried the Bulldogs into the ninth to preserve the win.
It wasn't exactly a joy ride for Mitchell, though, who got himself into a pair of jams shortly after entering. The first came in the seventh when he put two men on with one out, but that rally was ended when he induced a double-play ball to end the inning.
It got interesting again in the top of the ninth, though, when Mitchell again put two men on with one away. With the tying run at the plate, coach John Cohen turned to closer Jonathan Holder, who ended the drama in a hurry with a fly out and ground out, securing the Bulldogs' spot in the finals.
Oregon State finished the year 52-13, just a pair of wins shy of its third finals trip in the past eight years.
The win for Mississippi State extends the SEC's recent run of success, as noted by Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers:
Mississippi State will meet UCLA, who knocked off UNC, 4-1, Friday, in a best-of-three series beginning Monday.