This is going to be one Mississippi State baseball wants back.
Coming into Sunday’s series finale against South Carolina, Mississippi State was tied for first place in the Southeastern Conference. The Bulldogs nearly maintained that position, but couldn’t protect a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning to complete a sweep of the Gamecocks. It was the first time MSU fell this season entering the ninth inning with a lead. The Bulldogs are now 30-1 when leading after eight innings.
After wins by Tennessee and Arkansas, MSU (35-11, 16-8) sits one game behind both schools and a half game behind Vanderbilt, which had the final game of its series against Georgia canceled due to poor weather conditions.
With the bats going cold after the sixth inning, the Bulldogs couldn’t respond in the 10th and 11th innings and eventually allowed South Carolina’s David Mendham to double in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th and fell 4-3. Missed opportunities cost the Bulldogs time and time again, leaving 13 total runners stranded.
“We have to do more offensively, and you have to tip your hat to their bullpen, they had their top two guys out there,” MSU coach Chris Lemonis said in a news release. “They pitched well there at the end of the game. They get a tapped ball and then a ball in the gap. They made the plays late. I’m proud of our guys, but I’m disappointed we didn’t win today. I thought we could do a little more, but the reality is we’re playing good baseball. Sometimes the game just doesn’t play you the right way.
Rowdey Jordan extended his on-base streak to 31 games after hitting a home run in the top of the sixth inning, and Tanner Allen also crushed a solo shot in the fifth.
South Carolina’s Jeff Heinrich played spoiler in the ninth inning, driving in the game-tying run by doubling. The Gamecocks had the bases loaded with one out in the frame, but MSU reliever Brandon Smith struck out both batters he faced to escape the jam and send the game into extra innings. Smith pitched both the 10th and 11th innings and eventually allowed the game-winning run to score.
While the loss is a missed opportunity to keep pace at the top of the league, MSU faces Missouri next weekend, who is at the bottom of the SEC East standings. Before it faces the Tigers, the Bulldogs have a midweeker against UT Martin at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Hodge is the former sports editor for The Dispatch.