A passed ball on a strikeout in the top of the ninth inning allowed Mississippi State to complete a three-run rally Thursday, beating Ole Miss 4-3 at Oxford University Stadium.
The rivals meet again at 6 p.m. Friday. The three-game series concludes Saturday with a 1:30 p.m. start.
The Bulldogs (17-10, 4-3) trailed by as many as three runs through the fifth inning but began to chip away at Ole Miss’ lead in the seventh.
Tied 3-3 in the ninth, the Bulldogs put runners on the corners with two outs against Dallas Woolfolk. The Ole Miss closer looked like he had struck out Cole Gordon, but the ball got past catcher Cooper Johnson, allowing Jake Mangum to score the go-ahead run.
After Ole Miss’ Bryan Seamster walked to lead off the bottom half of the ninth and MSU bobbled a bunt attempt by Grae Kessinger, Will Golsan sacrificed the Rebel duo into scoring position.
With a 1-2 count on Ryan Olenek, MSU coach Andy Cannizaro opted to go back to his bullpen and bring in Spencer Price.
The Bulldog reliever got Olenek on a check swing strike and then intentionally walked Tate Blackman to get to Colby Bortles with the bases loaded.
The gamble paid off as the Ole Miss third baseman struck out for the fourth time on the night to end the game with the bases loaded.
Ole Miss (16-10, 3-4) took a 1-0 lead in the fourth on a double by Thomas Dillard.
Blackman extended Ole Miss’ lead to 3-0 in the fifth with a two-run triple into the right-center gap.
MSU ace Konnor Pilkington’s fifth strikeout of the night stopped the bleeding for the Bulldogs, but the damage had been done. The former East Central standout was pulled shortly after, having surrendered three runs on three hits, three walks and a hit batter in five innings. His five strikeouts were a season-low for the SEC’s strikeout leader.
A perfectly timed hit-and-run by Mangum in the seventh put runners on the corners with two outs and forced the Rebels to pull starter James McArthur in favor of Will Stokes.
Brent Rooker made the Rebels pay for the change with a two-run double, pulling the Bulldogs within one, 3-2.
After Ole Miss intentionally walked Ryan Gridley, Gordon singled through the right side to tie the game 3-3. Freshman reliever Will Ethridge ended up inducing a fly ball to keep the game tied.
Blackman led Ole Miss with a single, triple and three RBIs. Mangum recorded a single and double to lead the Bulldogs. McArthur two runs on four hits and two walks, striking out five.