OMAHA, Neb. — Luke Alexander is capable of the big hit against an opponent other than Ole Miss.
Twice the hero against the rival Rebels, the junior shortstop from Belmont was the hero once more Saturday night. His walkoff single took Mississippi State (38-27) to a 1-0 win over Washington, sending to a 7 p.m. Monday game against North Carolina. The Tar Heels got to that game by beating Oregon State 8-6 earlier Saturday.
“It’s awesome to do it against Ole Miss, but to come to Omaha, a kid’s dream, and walk it off was awesome,” Alexander said.
The ending was the best part of a night in which Alexander tallied three hits and played stout defense, keeping MSU in the pitcher’s duel until he could end it in the bottom of the ninth.
“I knew with a man on second base he was going to start my off with a slider, but it was a little low,” Alexander said. “I knew 0-2 he was going to come back with a slider and he left it over the plate.”
It was the continuation of an excellent postseason run for Alexander. From May 4 to June 2 his batting average dropped 21 points down to .201, but 11 hits in his last seven games has brought that average back up to .222, where it was May 4.
“What’s running through my mind is I have complete confidence in LA,” Stovall said. “He’s been in this situation before.
“The ball wasn’t carrying all night, but I felt like that ball went.”
His damage on that slider scored second baseman Hunter Stovall, just another time those two linked to change the game.
The double play combo that scored the game’s only run was the same that kept MSU in the game as long as it was. They turned a bases-loaded double play in the third inning to get starting pitcher Ethan Small out of the biggest jam he faced.
Small exited the game after seven scoreless innings without a walk, striking out five and allowing four hits. His 104 pitches were seven shy of tying his season high.
The first four innings went by with little to no scoring threat thanks to the work of Ethan Small and Washington starting pitcher Joe DeMers. MSU had five hits through four innings and Washington had three; the first 4 1/2 innings lasted just 1 hour, 13 minutes.
Both pitchers got in trouble once but ultimately navigated it cleanly. Small’s mess came in the third, when a pair of one-out singles put Huskies aboard, a balk moved them over and hitting the batter with the next pitch loaded the bases. Luke Alexander and Hunter Stovall turned an inning-ending double play to keep the game scoreless. Stovall collected Alexander’s toss barehanded.
North Carolina beat Oregon State 8-6 to force the meeting with MSU.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson