The host Bulldogs improved to 34-13 and evened their SEC record at 11-11 following the first game of both this series and this day. Game-two of the doubleheader forced by Friday weather was to begin at 4:10. Alabama is 27-19, 11-10 SEC heading into the rematch.
Porter hasn’t seen much regular use nor success the past month in his role as lefthanded designated hitter against righthanded starters. He came into the series 1-of-9 in his previous seven games, and for that matter had driven in only one run (against Auburn) in SEC action all season. Still with Alabama putting a right-sider on the mound Coach John Cohen stuck with his season-long scheme of matchup lineups.
This put Porter in the order, and in what proved perfect position with his pair of two-RBI two-baggers. The first double sparked a seven-run second inning for the Bulldogs, their biggest of SEC season so far. The second might have mattered more, coming after Alabama had cut their deficit to 8-6. Porter’s two-out double scored another pair and padded Mississippi State’s margin for the victory.
Three more Bulldogs had a pair of base hits in game-one. Most notably 1B Wes Rea, with a double of his own and the home team’s only home run. State posted a ninth double-digit hits day in SEC play, though this was the first in seven games.
All the offense, most notably that huge second inning, allowed LHP Luis Pollorena to give the Bulldogs just about what was asked of start. He put up three zeroes while State built an 8-0 lead, enough to survive Alabama’s mid-game outburst. Pollorena went 4.1 innings with five of the Alabama runs charged to his account, on five this with two walks and six strikeouts.
Based on his first three turns it didn’t appear Pollorena would need any relief anytime soon. He began with eight-straight outs before walking the number-nine batter, which was negated by a caromed and fielded grounder to end the inning. And he had a healthy lead to pitch with too, after the Bulldogs jumped all over Alabama starter Spencer Turnbull in that decisive second.
Turnbull had erased a leadoff scratch single by SS Adam Frazier with a double-play to end his first inning. He wasn’t nearly so fortunate the next turn as the Bulldogs batted-around. It began not with a hit ball though, but a 3-1 walk of 2B Brett Pirtle. Rea didn’t bunt as expected; he swung away and lined a double off the leftfield wall. CF C.T. Bradford pushed the first pitch to the left side, a safety squeeze that Pirtle opted to stay put on. Wisely because Bradford got to first base safely anyway leaving all posts full.
For Porter. Jammed on a pitch he somehow fought it off for a dribbler that stayed fair inside third base. And, kept rolling to the corner for Pirtle and Rea to get the scoring started. A walk of C Nick Ammirati re-loaded everything, and LF Jacob Robson punched a single through the middle to plate Bradford.
It didn’t stop there either. Frazier chipped a soft single just far enough behind third base, and ahead of the leftfielder, for Porter and Ammirati to score while he took second on the throw home. Robson was on third so he could score on a fly ball by 3B Alex Detz, and Alabama’s errant throw-in put Frazier on third base too. This misplay mattered because a wild pitch scored him for the 7-0 margin. It became 8-0 in the Bulldog third as Rea cleared the low fence just left of the centerfield wall for his fifth homer of the season.
Pollorena was cruising a strikeout into the top of the fourth. A single falling front of Renfroe didn’t look like much with two outs, until Alabama’s Austen Smith turned on something and cleared leftfield for his fourth home run and a 8-2 scoreboard. Real trouble arose in the fifth, again with one out as nine-batter Andrew Miller reached on a bunt single.
A walk had two on for Georgie Salem, as he yanked a double into rightfield to score both. With the lead halved RHP Myles Gentry entered, only to give up a seeing-eye single for one RBI. A wild pitch and base hit suddenly had it down to a 8-6 margin before Gentry fanned Brett Booth.
Given the major momentum shift some sort of answer seemed necessary. The Bulldogs got it. Both Pirtle and Bradford singled after outs to give Porter another big chance. On 2-2 the designated Dog delivered, this time a tailing drive to leftfield for the two-bagger and two RBI.
LHP Ross Mitchell entered to out the bottom of Alabama’s order in the sixth. A leadoff double and 3-1 count plunking in the seventh forced State to make another move though. A fly ball to center produced the first out and runners on corners, the cue for Holder. His first pitch was lined straight to Bradford and Kenny Roberts didn’t want to risk a play at the plate with Smith coming up.
It didn’t matter because Holder froze Smith on a big 1-2 curve for the called strikeout. He had two hard contacts to start the eighth; one for a single and the next for a double-play, the 61st of State’s season. A strikeout ended that inning and two more strikeouts, of the top two in the Tide order, ended the affair. Holder now has 57 strikeouts on the season, behind Pollorena’s 60.
Of more historic moment, he tied the season record shared by Caleb Reed and Van Johnson with his 13th save of the season.
Live-armed lefthander Taylor Guilbeau threw the last three turns and very well. After a leadoff walk of new LF Demarcus Henderson he stormed through State’s order with nine consecutive outs, four of them fannings.
Mitchell (9-0) got the win on timing as he threw just 1.1 innings with a hit and strikeout. Turnbull (4-2) took the loss allowing all ten runs on as many hits with two walks and three strikeouts.