Mississippi State

Arizona ends Mississippi State's historic season in 11-inning contest

JIM LYTLE/ASSOCIATED PRESS 
 Mississippi State's John Holland tags out Arizona's Randy Labaut (17) as he slides into second base during the first inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game in Starkville Saturday.
JIM LYTLE/ASSOCIATED PRESS Mississippi State's John Holland tags out Arizona's Randy Labaut (17) as he slides into second base during the first inning of an NCAA college baseball tournament super regional game in Starkville Saturday. AP

STARKVILLE - For seven innings, 13,452 Mississippi State fans were gearing up for a game three in the NCAA Super Regional on Sunday.

They instead left Dudy Noble Field for the last time in 2016 with a loss.

The Bulldogs blew a 5-1 lead heading to the eighth inning as Arizona came back to tie things up 5-5 in the ninth to force extra innings before knocking off the home-standing MSU team 6-5 in 11 frames.

"Our hats go off to Arizona. They're a really good club that's well coached," MSU coach John Cohen said. "They came in here in a really difficult environment on the road and played very well. They're on a little bit of a streak now."

A day after being completely shut out at the plate Mississippi State didn't take long to get the bats going on Saturday.

Gavin Collins started off the second inning with a leadoff single and Brent Rooker brought him home on an RBI single. Arizona answered that with Bobby Dalbec. This time, it was from the junior's bat and not his arm.

Following 8.2 innings of shutout baseball on Friday, Dalbec launched a two-out home run that cleared the left field lounge and tied the game at 1-1 in the second.

The Bulldogs went back to work in the third and, ironically, were helped by Dalbec as the third baseman loaded the bases with one out on an error. Collins made him pay hitting a deep sacrifice fly to left center giving MSU the lead back at 2-1.

That lead expanded in the fourth when Rooker sent a no-doubt home run into the left field lounge and MSU gave Sexton a 3-1 lead.

That lead gave Sexton some room to work with, but didn't mean he cruised through the Wildcat lineup. In three straight innings, the junior pitcher had runners in scoring position against him with the biggest threat coming in the fifth.

With runners at the corners and one out, Sexton saw a hard hit ball go to John Holland, who turned a 4-6-3 double play to get MSU out of a jam and bring the crowd at Dudy Noble to their feet.

In the seventh, the Bulldogs kept it going.

When Ryan Gridley's leadoff double chased Arizona ace Nathan Bannister, Jake Mangum extended his hitting streak to a team-high 13 games when he came through with a one-out RBI double to right field to push the lead to 4-1.

Rooker kept his bat hot in the eighth when he launched home run No. 2 to left center field and the Bulldogs were feeling good with a 5-1 advantage and six outs to go.

That changed in a hurry when Ryan Rigby gave up back-to-back singles to start the bottom of the inning and Ryan Aguilar deposited a three-run home run to right field to make it 5-4.

With five straight Wildcat hits and the tying and lead run on bases, MSU turned to Reid Humphreys out of the bullpen. He struck out two and got a groundout keeping MSU's 5-4 lead heading to the ninth.

That lead wouldn't hold through the ninth. Humphreys gave up a leadoff double and then a bloop single with one out tied things up at 5-5.

Blake Smith left the bases loaded in the inning with a gutsy strikeout and groundout to keep MSU alive heading to extras.

MSU's bats didn't do Smith any favors, putting up goose eggs in the 10th and 11th and Arizona finally cashed in.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Smith gave up a single to Cesar Salazar bringing home the winning run in the 11th and sending the Wildcats to the College World Series.

"It's a shame that (Smith) was the one tagged with the loss," Cohen said. "He played his heart out for us and has done a great job all year."

MSU managed to get seven hits in the game but went hitless in the final four innings. Arizona had 10 hits and five runs scored during that time.

The Bulldogs got a three-hit day from Rooker, who hit two home runs and drove in three RBIs, but he was pulled from the game in the eighth for defensive purposes.

"We had a four-run lead in the eighth and you're thinking we've got to get six outs. For (Brent) to come back up in the order we were going to have to get to extra innings and that's exactly what happened," Cohen said. "I'll absolutely wear that."

Sexton pitched 5 1/3 innings of one-run ball in likely his final game as a Bulldog. He struck out six. MSU's bullpen gave up 11 hits and five runs, striking out nine and walking three.

"I'm proud of all of our guys. I thought we battled the entire game," Sexton said. "We made some mistakes, but that's baseball. At no point in the game did I think we were going to lose but that's baseball and what happened, happened."

Smith (2-1) was charged with the loss.

It was a banner year for the Bulldogs who won their first SEC Championship in 27 years

"They're champions," Cohen said. "They won the most difficult league in America, they won a regional. I think they achieved a lot, but they wanted to get to Omaha. That was their goal and we're one run short two days in a row. That's disappointing."

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