Dogs advance to title game
The Associated Press
Sunday, May 20, 2001
HOOVER, Ala. A game-winning inside-the-park homer. Several surprising pitching performances. A pair of down-to-the-wire games.
It was just another day in the life of the Mississippi State-South Carolina rivalry.
Joey Collums and Brandon Medders combined on an eight-hit shutout to lead Mississippi State to a 1-0 win over the Gamecocks Saturday night and into the Southeastern Conference tournament championship game.
The Bulldogs (35-22) will be seeking their first SEC tournament title since 1987 against LSU, a 12-6 winner over Ole Miss today.
You don't see too many 1-0 ball games in college baseball,'' Mississippi State coach Pat McMahon said. They were two outstanding baseball games. What a heckuva day.''
Ten of the last 12 meetings have been decided by one run, but none have ended like the first one.
South Carolina (44-17) forced the second game with a wild 7-6 victory on Garris Gonce's inside-the-park home run with two outs in the ninth inning.
The second game was all about the pitchers.
Medders worked out of a jam in the ninth. After striking out Tim Whittaker, he gave up back-to-back singles to pinch-hitters Trey Dyson and Byron Jeffcoat.
Landon Powell then struck out and pinch-hitter Yaron Peters grounded to the second baseman on the first pitch to end it.
Collums (3-3) allowed five hits in six innings for his first SEC win and Medders pitched the final three to earn his sixth save. It was the first time South Carolina has been shut out this season, spoiling a superb outing by first-time starter Blake Taylor.
When we got into the seventh inning and Brandon was coming in, I felt pretty confident that one run was going to hold up,'' Collums said.
Taylor (3-3) gave up just one unearned run in 7-2/3 innings, striking out five and scattering seven hits after working out of the bullpen all season. It was easily his longest outing of the season, surpassing the six innings against LSU and surprising the Bulldog hitters.
We weren't really expecting a whole lot out of him,'' said right fielder Phillip Willingham, who drove in the lone run on an RBI groundout in the fifth. He was working the ball around the plate really well and keeping us off balance. I thought he was a lot better than we expected him to be.''
Neither coach was asking for too much from the starters.
Coach just told me before the game just to keep the game under control,'' Collums said. I didn't know I would throw six.''
And nobody knew what Taylor would do.
Incredible effort by Taylor,'' South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. What he did was way more than we asked for. He gave us a chance to win. We just didn't have enough timely hits to pull it out.''
The second game was delayed 21 minutes by rain with one out in the eighth.
The first game, also delayed briefly by rain, featured a nine-run fifth inning to break open a 1-0 game and then went into the ninth tied at 6-6.
Gonce then sent a ball to the right field fence, just out of Josh West's reach. Gonce ignored his third base coach's stop sign, and the throw home easily beat him, but catcher Jason Burkley couldn't handle the ball as it skipped toward him.
Lee Gronkiewicz (2-1) then pitched a perfect ninth to preserve the win after walking in two runs in the seventh.
In fact, the Bulldogs scored four runs on bases loaded walks and two others on sacrifices, all in the sixth and seventh.
Sidearm pitcher Josh Wooten (3-5) baffled the Gamecocks, striking out the side in the eighth and getting two quick outs in the ninth before Gonce's homer.