CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — The Mississippi State University baseball program is six outs from the College World Series.
With MSU leading No. 6 national seed University of Virginia 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh inning in game two of the NCAA Charlottesville Super Regional, a second weather delay forced the teams off the field at 10:02 p.m. Sixty-nine minutes later, the game was suspended until 3 p.m. today.
Virginia junior left-hander Kyle Crockett had an 0-2 count on Hunter Renfroe when play was stopped. Crockett, the team’s closer, threw 42 pitches in 2 2/3 innings.
If game three is necessary, it is scheduled to start 55 minutes after game two.
Two years ago, MSU (47-18) led the University of Florida 6-4 in the 2011 Gainesville Super Regional and was eight outs away from a trip to Omaha, Neb. The nationally ranked Gators rallied for four runs to eliminate the Bulldogs.
With just six outs left to complete a sweep of the Charlottesville Super Regional, MSU still has a relatively fresh bullpen. Sophomore closer Jonathan Holder hasn’t been used in the super regional. Holder, who is one of five finalists for the 2013 Stopper of the Year Award, which is given to the nation’s best relief pitcher, likely will be on the mound for MSU when play resumes. Holder earned his 17th save of the season May 31 in a 5-3 victory against the University of Central Arkansas. He didn’t allow a hit and walked three (two strikeouts) in a 25-pitch ninth inning that saw him retire Ethan Harris on a fly out with runners on second and third base.
On Sunday, MSU used another solid relief effort from senior left-hander Chad Girodo to move two innings away from its first trip to the College World Series since 2007. In 4 2/3 innings, Girodo allowed five hits and two earned runs, but he used a driving slider to strike out 10 and to keep Virginia (50-11) off balance. Girodo has 22 strikeouts in the last 11 1/3 innings.
In addition to not having used Holder, the Bulldogs also will have junior right-hander Ben Bracewell and freshman right-hander Myles Gentry fresh in the bullpen. While it’s likely MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson will go to Holder in the top of the eighth, the Bulldogs could turn to Bracewell or sophomore Ross Mitchell if game three is needed.
MSU built a 5-1 lead in the first four innings thanks in part to a two-run home run Wes Rea crushed over the left-field bleachers and deep into the trees more than 400 feet from home plate. Rea’s seventh home run of the season was MSU’s first of the postseason.
Before MSU’s two-run third, a 22-minute weather delay had both teams questioning what to do with their starting pitchers.
Virginia redshirt senior Scott Silverstein (10-1, 2.86 ERA entering Sunday) struggled with his control after the initial rain delay in the second inning. MSU capitalized and erased Virginia’s early 1-0 lead on Adam Frazier’s RBI single. Center fielder Brandon Downes, who hit a solo home run over the left-field bleachers off starting pitcher Trevor Fitts in the second, limited the damage by throwing out Demarcus Henderson at home plate. Frazier, who went 6-for-6 in game one, chased Silverstein with his second RBI with one out in the fourth.
Virginia may have to complete a comeback without Silverstein and Crockett. Virginia coach Brian O’Connor went to Crockett, a third-round pick by the Cleveland Indians in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player draft, in the fourth.
In MSU’s 11-6 victory Saturday in game one, Virginia used three relievers who were among the team leaders in number of appearances this season. A depleted bullpen could force the Cavaliers, who had lost only three home games this season before the Charlottesville Super Regional, to rely on less experienced pitchers if the teams need to play more than 12 outs today.
A victory today would send MSU to the College World Series for the ninth time in school history, and first time under coach John Cohen. Cohen, who played at MSU from 1988-90, was part of the 1990 team that finished 50-21 and went 1-2 at the College World Series (tied for fifth). A trip to Omaha would be the first as a coach for Cohen, who also was head coach at the University of Kentucky for five seasons. He also worked as a graduate assistant coach/assistant coach at the University of Missouri, the head coach at Northwestern State University (four seasons), and an assistant coach at the University of Florida.