Butler's infield chopper scored the go-ahead run as the Bulldogs finally snuck past in-state rival Mississippi 4-1 in 17 innings in the final game of a weekend Southeastern Conference series. Nick Hardy capped the three-run inning with a two-run single.
The teams played the longest game in Mississippi State history. Five times previous, the Bulldogs had been involved in 15-inning games. The previous longest MSU-UM contest was a 2-0 Bulldog win in 15 innings in 1963. The contest matched the longest game in Ole Miss history. The Rebels defeated Arizona 5-4 in 17 innings in 2001.
"We had to pitch well and I am proud of the way our guys pitched today," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "This is a good win for our guys heading into final exams this week."
With the victory, MSU improved to 28-12 overall and 10-9 in conference play. UM fell to 30-16 and 12-9. Ole Miss won the weekend series thanks to a 17-7 win Friday and 5-1 win Saturday. The teams finish regular season play by splitting four games - the Bulldogs won 14-9 in the Governor's Cup in Pearl, Miss., earlier this month.
For the third time in the series, the Bulldogs scored first. Jeffey Rea reached in the first inning Sunday with a leadoff single and advanced to second on a misplay in the outfield. A pair of groudballs brought the senior co-captain home to score.
Ole Miss tied the score with a single run in the fifth inning. Evan Button laced a one-out single. Button took second on a balk call and scored on an RBI single by C.J. Ketchum.
From there, the contest moved quickly to extra innings with each team having some scoring threats.
In the 11th inning, MSU's Rea had a leadoff single. A sacrifice bunt moved Rea to second base but he was stranded there. An inning later, Conner Powers drew a leadoff walk. Again a bunt moved Powers and a groundout sent him to third base. Again, the Bulldogs failed to score.
Ole Miss almost broke through in the 14th inning. Logan Power led off the inning with a single to right field. Zach Miller followed with a line drive single to left field. Mitch Moreland worked out of that jam with a failed bunt attempt back and back-to-back strikeouts.
The Rebels also threatened in the 16th inning. Cody Overbeck led off the inning with a single to left center. Ironically, it was the fifth time in seven extra innings that the Rebels' leadoff man reached base. Power advanced Overbeck with a sacrifice bunt. After an intentional walk, the Bulldogs turned their third double play in extra frames to snuff that threat.
Finally in the 17th inning, MSU did score. Brian LaNinfa laced a ground rule double to right center. Powers followed with base hit, giving the Bulldogs runners on the corner. After a strikeout, Butler drove in the go-ahead run with his chopper. Mark Goforth followed with a hit to load the bases. After a flyout, Hardy's smash scored two insurance runs.
"We had all kind of opportunities in this game," Polk said. "We finally got a break in that last inning with that chink hit by Butler. It all evens out at the end."
In the home half of the 17th, Moreland worked around a one-out error to close out the victory.
Both teams pitched the contest brilliantly. For MSU, starter Josh Johnson threw the first six innings, allowing five hits and one run with one walk and four strikeouts. UM starter Nathan Baker lasted seven innings. The freshman left-hander allowed five hits and one run with one walk and five strikeouts.
Aaron Weatherford followed in relief for State and gave his best outing of the season, matching a season-high with seven innings pitched of shutout relief. Weatherford allowed five hits with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. UM's Cody Satterwhite matched Weatherford pitch for pitch. Satterwhite worked nine innings of shutout relief. Satterwhite allowed three hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Moreland (3-0) threw four innings of shutout relief to garner the win. Moreland allowed four hits with one walk and three strikeouts. Scott Bittle (2-5) pitched the 17th inning for the Rebels and took the loss.
MSU totaled 13 hits, including multiple-hit games by Rea, Powers, Butler and Goforth. Ole Miss finished with 14 hits. Jordan Henry had a game-high four hits and finished with 11 hits for the weekend series. Zach Miller also had three hits for the Rebels.
The Bulldogs play no midweek games due to final exams. MSU will host Auburn next weekend in an SEC series at Dudy Noble Field. Game times are 6:30 p.m. CT Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The Saturday game will be televised regionally by CSS.