With the hot bat of Biloxi’s Cody Brown leading the way, Mississippi State clinched the Hattiesburg Regional with wins of 8-1 and 8-6 over Southern Miss on Monday night at Pete Taylor Park.
With his team trailing 5-1 in the fifth inning of the second game, Brown sent a 3-run home run well into the pine trees above the right field wall to spark the Bulldogs’ rally.
MSU (40-25) will travel to play rival LSU in the Super Regional beginning Saturday.
The Bulldogs battled back to win four consecutive games after falling 6-3 to South Alabama in the team’s regional opener Friday.
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Brown, a senior, took the field in each of the last four games knowing that his Bulldog career was one defeat away from ending.
“Whenever we lost to South Alabama, I woke up early the next day and I kind of woke up because of that,” Brown said. “I told myself to enjoy my last possible game and give it everything I’ve got. I was just going to go out there, compete and win at-bats for my team. I wanted to do everything I could to keep on playing.”
Brown was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Hattiesburg Regional after going 10-for-19 at the plate over the course of five games. He hit two homers, knocked in seven runs and scored three times.
Brown was joined on the All-Regional Team by another Coast product, South Alabama sophomore outfielder Dylan Hardy.
Taylor Braley and Mason Irby were the lone Southern Miss representatives on the All-Regional squad.
MSU started the day in need of two victories to advance to the Super Regional, but MSU coach Andy Cannizaro pointed out that his players had already had plenty of success in situations were they had to play two games in a single day with 12 wins total in that scenario.
“We’ve been battle tested in that area,” Brown said. “We had one against Auburn as well. It’s a tough task. We came out with good energy, stayed high. We woke up with a task at hand and we came out and did our job.”
Southern Miss coach Scott Berry and his players were emotional following their disappointing end to the season after needing just one more win to reach the Super Regional.
MSU junior right-hander Jacob Billingsley shut down the Golden Eagles (50-16) in the first game, throwing all nine innings for the first complete game of his career. He worked through some early control issues, allowing one run on six hits. He struck out five and walked four.
“He was unbelievable,” said Brent Rooker, the MSU first baseman who hit a home run in both of Monday’s games. “He comes out and throws a complete game, really a special performance. He had good tempo on the mound.”
USM finally came alive at the plate in the second game, putting up four runs in the first inning on a lead off homer by Dylan Burdeaux, a two-run double by Gulfport’s Daniel Keating and an RBI single by Matthew Guidry for the 4-1 lead after one inning.
USM managed only two more runs in the game, both solo homers – one by Hunter Slater and another by LeeMarcus Boyd.
MSU gained its first lead of the game in the eighth when Rooker popped up a Nick Sandlin pitch down the right field line. The ball fell into no man’s land with the right fielder, first baseman and second baseman all having a chance to play the ball. Two runs scored on the play, giving the Bulldogs the 7-6 advantage
USM committed three defensive errors in the game, including a dropped fly ball in center by Matt Wallner and another misjudged pop fly by Burdeaux at first base.
USM had a chance to tie the game with two out in the bottom of the eighth when the speedy Keating sent a grounder to the left side of the infield with Slater standing on third base. Keating raced down the line and there was a close call at first, but first base umpire Michael Banks called Keating out.
Berry, who had multiple discussions with the umpiring crew during the game, tossed his helmet aside and raced over to argue the call. He was ejected from the game.
Berry didn’t go into detail about what took place, simply saying, “That’s all part of the game.”
USM used three different pitchers who worked on short rest. Junior left-hander Kirk McCarty got the start on two days’ rest. He proved solid through four innings, giving up three runs on six hits. He struck out three and walked three.
Sandlin, who threw 80 pitches, gave up three earned runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings to take the loss and drop his record to 10-2. Hayden Roberts threw the final 1 1/3 innings, giving up one run on one hit.
Spencer Price (4-1) picked up the win in relief for MSU, giving up one run on two hits in three innings.
Baton Rouge Super Regional schedule
Saturday: 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Sunday: 8 p.m. (ESPN2 or ESPNU)