OMAHA, Neb. — It’s amazing to think what Trey Porter could do if he could see perfectly.
In the last month of the season, Trey Porter developed a severe eye infection that held him out of action. He was told not to wear his contact lenses until the infection cleared. Against doctors orders, Porter has been wearing his contacts only at games.
Even with vision that isn’t 20/20, the senior designated hitter showed Monday he can find a way to deliver in the clutch.
The left-handed hitting Porter’s two-run single to right-center field with two outs in the top of the eighth inning proved to be the difference and catapulted the Mississippi State University baseball team to a 5-4 victory against Indiana University in a winners’ bracket game in front of a crowd of 25,620 at TD Ameritrade Park.
“You always dream about having a chance to play in the College World Series,” Porter said. “You really don’t think that opportunity is ever going to come because there are so many great players and great teams. To be able to have an at-bat like that and have a hit like that to help my team is very special indeed.”
Porter’s single helped the Bulldogs (50-18) win their fifth game in a row and earn their second come-from-behind victory in as many days. MSU has won two games in the College World Series for the first time since 1985. It now will enjoy three days off before facing Indiana (49-15) or Oregon State University for the bracket one championship at 2 p.m. Friday (ESPN). With a victory, MSU will advance to the best-of-three national championship series for the first time in school history. OSU or Indiana would have to beat MSU on Friday and Saturday to prevent it from reaching that series. The Bulldogs have won 10 postseason games for the first time in school history.
Porter has suffered through multiple maladies, including a knee injury and a severe flu virus, in his two-year MSU career after joining the program as a walk-on from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. The latest ailment with his eye was supposed to limit his action in his final college season.
“Nobody works harder in the weight room or in practice than that young man,” MSU coach John Cohen said. “If he said he’s only gotten one workout in today, I’m shocked. He usually has gone through three or four. He’s always ready for moments like tonight.”
It’s unclear if Porter could see perfectly, but he knew a fastball was coming from reliever Brian Korte. On a 3-1 count, Porter jumped all over a flat pitch and lined a single into right-center field to give MSU the lead. Two pitches before the game-winning hit, Porter looked awful on a swing and miss on a slider that was two to three feet off the plate. The swing left Porter on one knee.
“I’m sure you all saw on a 2-0 pitch I swung and looked terrible on a ball that was in the other batter’s box because I was so locked in on fastball,” Porter said. “I kept thinking to myself that there’s no way with Adam Frazier on deck that they want to walk me and face him. I just knew a fastball was coming.”
Before the at-bat, Cohen and the MSU coaching staff had a decision to make as Indiana went to Korte, a left-handed specialist, who was making his 17th appearance. In his three previous postseason outings, Korte had only earned three outs. The move by Indiana coach Tracy Smith could’ve started a chess match with Cohen.
“You hate to get in the business of second-guessing yourself, but you just wouldn’t like to see your guy throw that 3-1 fastball right there,” Smith said. “Give the kid Porter credit because he sat on his pitch, got it,and then put one hell of a swing on it. That’s what winners do in moments like that.”
Due to the swing in his previous at-bat when he lined out on a fastball, Cohen decided to leave Porter in against Korte. That confidence showed Porter that Cohen believed he would get something to hit.
“Absolutely that moment right there gave a jolt,” Porter said with a smile. “I was walking over there hoping he wouldn’t take me out, and he had already decided I was his guy.”
Smith said in the postgame media conference that if Cohen had gone to a right-handed hitter that the Hoosiers would’ve countered.
“He would’ve never thrown a pitch,” Smith said. “We would’ve immediately gone to a righty there, and that would’ve been fine with me.”
Porter’s single was just his sixth hit in the past two months. It helped him record his fifth multi-RBI game of the season. It followed a masterful seven-pitch at-bat by Demarcus Henderson that included multiple foul balls and ended with a bloop single to right field that scored Brett Pirtle from third base.
In a year where MSU has refused to do anything the conventional way, Porter’s game-winning single capped a second consecutive comeback victory that suggests this might be how things are supposed to play out for the Bulldogs.
“We overcame some things we did wrong tonight, but I’m proud of our kids because we kept battling and competing and really having fun,” Cohen said. “Everybody contributed.”