Alabama (31-15, 13-9 SEC) won Friday night’s game-one 10-8, leaving the Bulldogs 21-25, 6-16 SEC and trying to split the series up going into Sunday.
The Bulldogs were taking their best shot at the Crimson Tide in game-two, with lefthander Nick Routt drawing the middle-start. And the freshman, who has lost two of his last three SEC starts with a no-decision, looked back on the early-season form that earned him a spot in the rotation as a rookie. Though hit seven times through five complete innings and tagged with a trio of runs through the first couple of frames Routt was able to settle into a groove and take control with three scoreless turns. He had six strikeouts at the halt without walking anyone.
Alabama opener Del Howell wasn’t as fortunate or effective. With a two-run lead before taking the mound, the lefthander surrendered seven State scores before he could complete just that initial inning. He also was still throwing when play paused with seven hits, three strikeouts, and five walks against him. To Howell’s credit after that big early assault he was able to hang four zeros on the scoreboard’s bottom line.
The Tide took advantage of their first chance to swing as leftfielder Taylor Dugas doubled off the rightfield fence, and an out later second baseman Ross Wilson drove it deep to the track where CF Grant Hogue stumbled trying for a running grab. The ball fell safely for a two-base hit and opening RBI, then Wilson got to score as well on a single to center by rightfielder Kent Mathes.
But if Routt had a rough start, the first turn was brutal for Howell as the Bulldogs battered-around and then some. Hogue regained his footing sufficiently to lead off State’s first with a gap-double of his own, and scored on a single from C Scott DeLoach. A walk of 3B Russ Sneed later, 1B Connor Powers got around on Howell and lined a drive that hit the fence in dead-left, smacking a seam in the padding and sticking for a unique ground-rule double. DeLoach was waved home for a 2-2 tie while Sneed and C.Powers were in scoring positions. They were joined by DH Cody Freeman with a walk to fill the sacks.
Which LF Jason Nappi quickly un-filled. His double caromed into the leftfield corner allowing all three Dogs preceding him to score unchallenged. It took a roller by RF Ryan Collins to get Howell’s first out of the inning, and still this put Nappi a corner closer so he could score on a scratch-single by 2B Jet Butler. SS Ryan Powers followed with his own base hit and while Tide first baseman Clay Jones robbed Hogue of another hit he could only get a force on that bag with Butler coming across. For good measure R.Powers stole third before the next pitch, though he stayed there as the inning ended with State up 7-2.
Consecutive singles had Tiders on corners to open their second, and a fielder’s choice grounder by centerfielder Alex Kubal scored Jones from third. Dugas laid down a surprise bunt that Sneed couldn’t handle cleanly, though DeLoach certainly seemed to have Kubal dead to rights after over-running second base. Ump Steve Dew didn’t see it that way. With two downs Routt wild-pitched the runners up a stop but he changed speeds on 2-2 to fan Wilson and get back to the dugout at 7-3.
He kept it there aided by a double-play in the Alabama third and one-on, two-out liner right to R.Powers to end the fourth. An error at second base to begin the fifth caused no problems either with two fly balls and a swinging strikeout seconds after lightning flashed to the north. The Bulldogs were able to complete their half of the inning, leaving a pair on (Collins walk, R.Powers single). But instead of returning to the field in positions State players ran to pull the tarp in anticipation of the weather that soon arrived just a bit ahead of schedule.
Mississippi State plans to start lefthander Tyler Whitney (2-4, 5.02) in Sunday’s third game, while Alabama has scheduled righty Adam Scott (2-1, 4.08).