A victory would send Mississippi State (47-18) to the College World Series, the program's ninth appearance at the national championship event and first under Coach John Cohen. The host and #6 national seed Cavaliers (50-11) will try to continue a rally and force a rubber-game that would start 55 minutes after conclusion of this contest.
Assuming, that is, weather allows. More rain is possible in the Charlottesville area Monday. The gametimes are dictated by NCAA broadcast partner ESPN, which delayed Sunday's start to 7:05 in the first place. State took Friday's game 11-6.
This one was setting up for much lower scoring, weather or not, but with big hits the rule Sunday. State starter Trevor Fitts was tagged for a leadoff home run in the top of the seventh by Cavalier cleanup batter Brandon Downes. The Bulldogs got that run back in the bottom of the frame with two outs, as SS Adam Frazier singled to center with bases loaded. Virginia got a great throw from centerfielder Downes to limit the damage to a lone run though, as LF Demarcus Henderson was tagged out at the plate after CF C.T. Bradford had crossed.
The tone changed completely in the third though, in both Bulldog aspects. First it was reliever Chad Girodo taking over from Fitts with a go-ahead runner on first base, one out, and the top of the order up. Girodo struck out Mike Papi and after a base hit got an inning-ending grounder. When he returned it was with a 3-1 lead.
Because with two outs, 2B Brett Pirtle extended the inning by legging-out an infield single to shortstop. That let 1B Wes Rea swing…and did he ever. His blast cleared leftfield in a big way, for a two-run shot and the first homer of Mississippi State's post-season whether SEC or NCAA.
The Bulldogs kept it up in the fourth as well, albeit with smaller swings. Henderson bunted his way on in leadoff and an out later was joined on the paths by DH Derrick Armstrong. Frazier, the hottest stick in the tournament, singled in Henderson and finished off UV ace Scott Silverstein in the process. Reliever Kyle Crockett was an out away from finishing this inning with no further harm when RF Hunter Renfroe just put the ball in play.
Shortstop Nick Howard fielded fine, but his bounced throw wasn't cleanly caught at first base. Armstrong never slowed rounding third and got home for the 5-1 lead.
Meanwhile Girodo was picking up where he'd left off in the Starkville Regional, working around scattered singles and stranding Cavaliers with strikeouts. A leadoff throwing error by C Nick Ammirati worth two bases did no harm either. Girodo fanned Papi a second time, and with two on got Joe McCarthy swinging as well on a wicked slider-outside.
Virginia finally tightened it up in their half of the sixth. With two on and two outs Girodo didn't get a full-count call and walked the bases full. Number-nine batter Nate Irving ripped a drive that 3B Alex Detz only deflected, turning into a double and two RBI. Though the bullpen was busy and tying runners on bases, Girodo stayed to face Papi a third time and yes, struck him out swinging.
Girodo also used a fanning to end an in-order seventh. Then two strikes into State's half lightning in the area forced another delay at 10:02, with heavier rain following.
State had no announcement to make as of midnight locally on pitching plans for Monday's resumption, much less any if-necessary rematch.
With two base hits Sunday, Frazier is now tied for the second-best season in MSU history at 102 safeties, and is one short of matching the record set by Brian Wiese with 103 hits in 1998.