UIC's furious rally comes up short in elimination game versus Bulldogs
HATTIESBURG - For Mississippi State, Sunday morning turned out to be a matter of survival.
For UIC, it was Sunday morning coming down, with another dose of heartbreak added to its NCAA postseason bill.
MSU left-hander Konnor Pilkington dominated for seven innings and the Bulldogs survived the last two innings to hang on to a 5-4 victory over the Flames in the Hattiesburg Regional before 4,149 at Pete Taylor Park.
“I felt like our guys played with a lot of pride, a lot of energy and emotion,” MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said. “It was a terrific win for us.”
And another grating loss for the Flames, who had bases-loaded in the ninth inning of both its regional games, only to fall a run short in each.
“To come that close against two nationally-ranked teams and have an opportunity the last two innings of both games to take the lead and win and come up a little bit short, it’s really hard to swallow,” UIC coach Mike Dee said.
Second-seeded State (37-25) will play in a 6 p.m. elimination game against the loser of Sunday’s second game between top-seeded Southern Miss (49-14) and third-seeded South Alabama (40-19).
Fourth-seeded Illinois-Chicago (39-17), playing in its first baseball regional since 2008, were the first team eliminated from a regional where play had been delayed a day by rain. The Flames lost a 6-1 lead Friday night and fell 8-7 to Southern Miss.
Sunday, Pilkington (8-5) had allowed just one hit over the first seven innings, and the Bulldogs were cruising with a 5-1 lead before the Flames ambushed opened the bottom of the eighth inning and end his afternoon.
Mickey McDonald got UIC within 5-3 with two-run single, and Rob Calabrese’s infield single at third base got the Flames within a run.
But State’s Riley Self came out of the bullpen to get the final five outs of the game and pick up his seventh save.
MSU left fielder Elijah MacNamee knocked in a pair of runs with a pair of hits as the Bulldogs collected 14 hits off four UIC pitchers.
MacNamee’s single drove in Hunter Stovall in a three-run fourth inning and his double in the fifth put the Bulldogs ahead 5-1.
UIC right-handed starter Reid Birlingmair (7-5) took the loss, allowing five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings. He walked two, striking out seven.
MSU first baseman Brent Rooker, 2017 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, was 2-of-5 with a RBI double. Rooker became the first player in SEC history with 20 home runs, 30 doubles and 75 runs batted in during a season.