OMAHA – Their role as an underdog in the College World Series has been cemented into the minds of many of the baseball fans who’ve filed into TD Ameritrade Park the past few days.
But on Monday night, Indiana had a chance to flip the script and make themselves the team to beat in their first ever appearance in the collegiate summer classic.
After a win over Louisville to open play on Saturday, the Hoosiers put themselves in the winner’s bracket of their four-team pod in the series. With a win against Mississippi State Monday night, the Hoosiers would earn a three-day break and would need just a single victory to reach the championship series.
Early on it seemed as if Indiana would make this scenario a reality with a two-run lead, but the experience Bulldogs weren’t about to let the newest participant to the series have it so easy. Mississippi State rallied for three runs in the eighth inning then held off a late Hoosiers rally to pick up a 5-4 victory in the winner’s bracket game Monday night in Omaha.
Tracy Smith’s team now will play an elimination game on Wednesday night against Oregon State at 8 P.M. Whoever wins that game will have to beat the Bulldogs twice in order to reach the championship series.
Mississippi State-who has appeared in nine College World Series-took advantage of a rough start for Indiana starter Will Coursen-Carr. Adam Frazier singled to lead off the game, Alex Detz was hit by a pitch and a wild pitch by Coursen-Carr to Hunter Renfroe put runners at second and third with no outs. Renfroe brought the run home with a ground out to the shortstop to make it 1-0, but poor base running by the Bulldogs made that the only tally they would get in the inning.
As Coursen-Carr settled down, the Indiana offense got to work. Casey Smith tied the game up in the second inning with a single to center field that plated Michael Basil and then Sam Travis put the Hoosiers ahead an inning later with his own RBI base hit. Scott Donley’s ground out would bring home another run in the third to put the Hoosiers up by two runs.
Mississippi State got on Coursen-Carr in the sixth and an RBI single by Wes Rea cut the lead to one and when the pitcher hit C.T. Bradford with a pitch, his night was over. Ryan Halstead relieved him and allowed a single which loaded the bases with one out, but he was able to get the next two Mississippi State batters to fly out to retain the Hoosiers’ lead.
In the eighth inning, the Bulldogs were finally able to break through. With one out, Demarcus Henderson evened the game up with a single to right off Halstead to score Brett Pirtle to make it 3-3. Nick Ammirati advanced the runners with a ground out and then Halstead was lifted in favor of Brian Korte. But the switch didn’t bring another end to a potentially big inning for the Bulldogs as Trey Porter promptly to right-center to bring in two runs and put Mississippi State up 5-3.
Indiana made one last charge in the ninth inning. Pinch hitter Chris Sujka led off with a hit and was nearly driven in with one out by Travis, who hit a line shot that hit off the top of the wall in left center which put runners on second and third. Donley grounded out to second base for the second out of the inning but in the process drove in Sujka to cut the lead to one.
Mississippi State brought in closer Jonathan Holder to face Basil. The Bulldogs closer got Basil to ground out to the mound, but Holder’s throw to first base was low, forcing Rea to scoop the ball up just before Basil reached the base to end the game.