June 3, 2012

CBI Live: #1 Florida State 5, #3 Samford 2

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Samford strikes late, sinks Mississippi State

By Andrew Krause



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — With their backs against the wall, the Samford Bulldogs came from behind to upset Mississippi State for the second time in the Tallahassee Regional, this time by a score of 3-2, and proved that they can take down the big boys.


“What a gutsy effort by a group of kids that hasn’t been here before,” said Samford head coach Casey Dunn. “To come into this environment, in regional play, for them to hold their composure…It’s really impressive for a group of guys in their first-ever experience.”


Nonetheless, it was the SEC Tournament champions that struck first, as MSU (40-24) utilized its typical small-ball style to manufacture a first-inning run. Adam Frazier flicked Kyle Putkonen’s first pitch into left field for a single, stole second base, advanced to third base on a sacrifice bunt, and scored on a groundout to the shortstop.


MSU’s Jacob Lindgren, used primarily as a reliever for much of the year and making only his second start of the season, was able to work out of trouble and hold the vaunted offense of Samford (41-22) scoreless early on.


“We didn’t get hits when we had to,” Dunn said of his team’s failure to cash in early. “You get 12 hits in a game you need to score six or seven runs. It’s been two nights in a row where we really haven’t walked. I thought their pitchers threw strikes. Again, when you limit the freebies, it’s tough to score sometimes.”


In the top of the fourth, Luis Pollorena led off with a single and advanced to third when Wes Rea followed with a base hit to right field.  Matthew Britton’s RBI single through the right side gave the MSU three straight hits and a 2-0 lead. However, Putkonen was able to bear down and record three straight outs to get out of the jam without further damage.


In the bottom half of the fourth, Samford responded for a run of its own, but it could have been more.


After back-to-back singles by Brandon Miller (pictured above) and C.K. Irby, Christiaan Durdaller popped up a bunt attempt back to Lindgren for the first out of the inning. After a softly-hit groundball allowed Miller (2 for 3) and Irby (2 for 4) to advance to third and second respectively, Tommy Corbin hit a hard line drive up the middle that brought in Miller.  However, MSU center fielder Hunter Renfroe, picked up his 10th outfield assist of the season, gunning down Irby at the plate and securing a 2-1 lead for MSU.


“Tommy Corbin came in with a big hit,” Miller said. “He’d been struggling a bit and then he came in with a huge hit. That was awesome for him. We were all excited for him and wanted to score more runs.”


After allowing a leadoff single to Zeth Stone in the fifth, Lindgren (4 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K) was replaced by left-handed reliever Ross Mitchell, who recorded three straight outs. 


MSU was fortunate to escape again in the sixth, as Mitchell (1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, K) ran into some trouble. Right-hander Ben Bracewell was called upon to face the right-handed hitting Corbin with a 1-2 count and runners on first and second. Corbin fouled off a handful of pitches to work a walk and load the bases, but Bracewell was able to get Zeth Stone to pop out to shortstop Adam Frazier for the third out.


However, MSU’s offense also left its fair share of runners on base. In the top of the seventh, still leading 2-1, MSU could not capitalize after its leadoff man, Adam Frazier, was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt, Joseph Burns, who gave up a grand slam to FSU’s James Ramsey Saturday nigtht, came in for Putkonen (6.1 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) and got two quick outs to keep Samford within striking distance.


“I’m glad I got another chance,” Burns said. “It was my time to do what I do. I got a rhythm and just pitched.”


In the bottom of the seventh, Samford’s offense finally came through against the unlikeliest of foes as Phillip Ervin delivered a two-out single off of MSU relief ace Jonathan Holder, who had not allowed a hit in his last eight appearances (spanning back to May 5). The next batter, Miller, came through with a RBI double to tie the game, hitting Holder (2-1, 1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 2 K) for his first earned run allowed all season in the process.


“That was definitely a mistake,” Holder said of his 1-1 pitch to Miller. “Give him credit-he just jumped all over it; put the barrel where he wanted it. He did what good hitters will do and took advantage of it.”


It appeared that MSU would escape the inning with the game tied, but first baseman Wes Rea could not handle an errant throw from third baseman Sam Frost so Miller came around to score and give Samford a 3-2 lead.


“I just kind of got sped up a little bit,” Frost said. “We work on it every day at practice, slowing the game down. The ball was kind of chopped up; I thought I had to rush but I had time.”


Burns (4-1, 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) worked a scoreless eighth inning before yielding to closer C.K. Irby. After recording one out, Irby walked Frost and surrendered a double to Frazier, putting runners at second and third. Nonetheless, Irby was able to bear down and get the last two outs, striking out Demarcus Henderson and getting Brent Brownlee to fly out to right field, to pick up his 10th save of the season.


With the loss, Mississippi State has been eliminated from the NCAA Tournament.


“We had opportunities offensively and we just didn’t do it; we didn’t take advantage of them,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We are already there pitching, for the most part we are already there or really close defensively, we are not a good offensive club yet. When that happens I think we have a chance to compete among the elite programs in this country.”


Samford advances to play Florida State and must beat them twice in order to win the Tallahassee Regional.


“Regardless of what happens the next game…the next two games, these guys are truly ready,” Dunn said of his squad’s impressive performance thus far. “They’ve proven they are worthy of this experience.”


(photo courtesy of Samford Media Relations Office)