Mississippi State shortstop Luke Alexander, who had three hits Saturday night, attempts to the putout of a Vanderbilt base runner at second base during Nashville Super Regional play at Hawkins Field in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by: Kelly Donoho/Mississippi State Athletic Media Relations
June 10, 2018 12:33:49 AM
NASHVILLE -- Vanderbilt repaid the favor.
After the Mississippi State baseball team kept its season alive with a walk-off home run in the Tallahassee Regional and took the driver's seat in the Nashville Super Regional with another one, Vanderbilt right fielder JJ Bleday hit a solo home run to straight away center field off of Zach Neff to win the Saturday game 4-3. The deciding game of the series comes 5 p.m. Sunday (ESPN2).
MSU (36-27) will be looking for its first trip to the College World Series since 2013.
It was a rude ending for what was a generally acceptable night of pitching. Konnor Pilkington got the start and made it through an outing with one or fewer runs allowed for the first time since March 9, allowing one run over 5 innings with six strikeouts. Neff was strong until the end, throwing 2 2/3 with three hits allowed.
In total, three Bulldog pitchers -- including Keegan James 2/3 innings -- walked a combined two Commodores. Their only sins were a small number of pitches left higher than they should have been, resulting in three doubles and a triple before the home run.
"It's pretty self-explanatory, I thought it was right down the middle," Neff said of the game's final pitch. "I need to make a better pitch than that."
MSU interim coach Gary Henderson added, "Those guys pitched well. Our guys weren't dominant, but you punch out 10 and walk two -- obviously you leave some balls up and they get hit -- but I'm not disappointed in how those kids pitched at all."
MSU spent the first seven innings working with a lead thanks to a two-run top of the second inning. Catcher Dustin Skelton made it possible with his two-strike sacrifice bunt that moved shortstop Luke Alexander to second and third baseman Justin Foscue to third; center fielder Jake Mangum drove them both in with a line drive single up the middle.
Designated hitter Jordan Westburg brought MSU's final run in with a double before Vanderbilt (35-26) scored in the sixth, eighth and ninth to win the game.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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