Mississippi State goes 2-0 on Sunday to advance to regional championship
The Hattiesburg Regional will come down to a showdown between the top two seeds, with the host undefeated and holding the upper hand.
Two Mississippi State University pitchers limited the University of South Alabama to just four hits Sunday night as the Bulldogs eliminated the Jaguars from the regional with a 7-3 win.
Second-seeded State (38-25) won a pair of elimination games Sunday to advance to a 1 p.m. meeting Monday with top-seeded University of Southern Mississippi (50-14) for the regional title.
The Golden Eagles await undefeated, meaning the Bulldogs would have to win twice Monday to advance out of the regional. A second game, if necessary, is set for 6 p.m.
“We are really excited and looking forward to the challenge playing a terrific Southern Miss team,” MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said. “They are an outstanding team and extremely aggressive at the plate and they throw strikes on the mound.
“We are fired up about playing them Monday. We feel like we are playing really well right now, and I know these guys are jacked up for the challenge."
It marks the fourth consecutive regional the Bulldogs have reached the championship bracket, dating to 2013.
Southern Miss and Mississippi State have met just once in an NCAA Regional, with the Bulldogs collecting a 3-0 victory at the 2011 Atlanta Regional. The teams met once this season, with the Golden Eagles winning 7-5 in a midweek game at Trustmark Park in Pearl.
The four hits Sunday night matched South Alabama’s season-low. Mississippi State pitching was responsible for the first time as well, when the Bulldogs limited South Alabama to four hits on March 10 in a 2-0 win in Starkville.
The dearth of offense happened just hours after South Alabama had collected 12 hits in an 8-3 loss to Southern Miss Sunday afternoon.
“It certainly isn’t any fun congratulating two different teams, on the same day, for beating you, but that’s what happened (Sunday),” South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said. “Our guys played extremely hard. Mississippi State just outplayed us a little bit.
“They got a few more hits and scored a few more runs. They played a complete game.”
The Bulldogs amassed 12 hits Sunday night, including home runs by Cody Brown, Hunter Stovall and Cole Gordon. The three home runs were the most since April 29 against Auburn University.
Stovall hit a 2-run shot in the fifth inning to erase a 1-0 South Alabama lead, and Brown followed later in the inning with a three-run blast.
“I thought he would pitch me away, but he threw a fastball in, and I was sitting on it and squared up on the the barrel,” Brown said.
Hunter Vansau knocked in a run in the eighth inning on an infield chopper, while Gordon capped the State scoring when he came off the bench to lead off the ninth inning with a home run to left field.
Through seven innings, third-seeded South Alabama (40-21) managed just two hits, but both were solo home runs by Wells Davis in the first and fourth innings.
The Jaguars managed just two more hits over the final two innings, both by Paul Russo.
MSU right-hander Denver McQuary (3-3) allowed two runs on two hits over five innings to pick up the win. He walked five and struck out three.
Peyton Plumlee allowed a run on two hits over the final four innings to pick up his first career save.
“Our two pitchers were outstanding,” Cannizaro said.
USA left-hander Andy Arguelles (3-3) lasted just 2 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits. Brown finished with three hits and three RBI, while Ryan Gridley also had three hits with two runs scored. Stovall added two hits with two RBI.