HOOVER, Ala. — The heroes of Mississippi State’s dramatic 4-3, 10-inning victory over LSU on Friday were about as improbable as the win itself.
To secure a game they trailed by two at the start of the ninth inning, the Bulldogs turned to a 5-foot-7 sub listed as a pitcher and a freshman reserve batting .149 for the season.
Luis Pollorena, lefty pitcher turned clutch hitting star, tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the ninth. Matthew Britton, the freshman with 17 hits in 120 previous at-bats, won it with an RBI single that caromed off the glove of LSU second baseman JaCoby Jones in the 10th.
“We have kids who love to compete,” State coach John Cohen said. “That gives you a chance to win every time. When the chips are down, they’re not going to back down. They’re going to compete. That’s what I think we really have going on in our dugout right now.”
Mississippi State won its second one-run game in three days against an LSU team that entered the week 15-6 in such affairs.
This one looked like a State loss most of the afternoon, but the Bulldogs found some life in breaking through for one run against LSU reliever Chris Cotton in the eighth.
Then came the ninth.
Wes Rea led off with a double inside the right-field line, the ball falling just past LSU junior Mason Katz’s outstretched glove. After a one-out single by Daryl Norris, leading hitter Adam Frazier made it 3-2 with an RBI single to right.
LSU closer Nick Goody then hit Tyler Fullerton with a pitch, bringing Pollorena to the plate an inning after the 5-7 junior had entered the game as a pinch hitter. Pollorena smashed a Goody offering to center, plenty deep to score Brent Brownlee from third with the tying run.
Britton’s shot came an inning later after Goody gave up a one-out double to Mitch Slauter, who had failed to get a hit in four previous at-bats.
Britton said he would skip school to visit Regions Park and watch the SEC tournament as a kid growing up in Cullman, Ala. He made even better memories Friday when he sent an offering from Rumbelow off the glove of the diving Jones and into center field for the game-winner.
Like Pollorena, Britton had entered as a pinch runner an inning earlier.
“Right when I saw (Jones) dive, my stomach kind of dropped,” Britton said. “I thought he caught it.”
Teammates mobbed Britton between first and second base as Slauter came home with the winning run.
The Bulldogs were moving on to play No. 4 Kentucky on Saturday with a berth in Sunday’s title game on the line. Not bad for a team that was down two going into the ninth.
“When you get behind three runs against a very good LSU team, it’s easy to say, ‘We have regionals next week and we played well down the stretch,’” Cohen said. “But these kids didn’t have that attitude. They wanted to win the baseball game and did whatever it took.”