WHAT HAPPENED: Mississippi State rallied back from a 3-1 deficit with three runs in the eighth inning to beat Indiana 5-4 in front of 25,260 at TD Ameritrade Park. With the win, the Bulldogs don’t have to play until Friday. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, have to take on No. 3 overall seed Oregon State in an elimination game at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. The winner of that game advances to play the Bulldogs again, but would have to beat Mississippi State twice to reach the best-of-three championship series.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Mississippi State left-hander Chad Girodo stepped in in the third inning. After surrendering an RBI double to IU first baseman Sam Travis and an RBI groundout to IU designated hitter Scott Donley to make it 3-1, Girodo spent the rest of the game mowing the Hoosiers down. He finished with 10 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings, scattering seven hits, baffling the Hoosiers with sweeping sliders that they simply could never get a hold of.
The Bulldogs started their rally in the sixth with an RBI single by first baseman Wes Rea. The eighth started with singles by second baseman Brett Pirtle and Rea. Left fielder DeMarcus Henderson then battled threw a seven-pitch at-bat and singled to right to bring home Pirtle. Indiana pulled Ryan Halsted after a groundout to set up the lefty-lefty matchup with Brian Korte against Trey Porter. Porter roped a single into the gap to bring home Rea and Henderson however, putting the Bulldogs up 5-3.
Indiana’s Sam Travis almost brought the Hoosiers back, ripping a double off the left center field wall to give the Hoosiers runners on second and third with one out in the ninth. Designated hitter Scott Donley brought Chris Sujka home on an RBI groundout, but Michael Basil grounded to pitcher Jonathan Holder to end the game.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers will walk away from this one driving themselves mad over a myriad of missed opportunities. In the third, Casey Smith struck out with the bases loaded. In the fifth, Smith struck out again with runners on first and third. In the seventh, Dustin DeMuth struck out with runners on second and third. All told, the Hoosiers left 10 men on base and six in scoring position. Much of that was due to Girodo’s slider, but much of it was also less than spectacular approaches by the Hoosiers. Tracy Smith said he didn’t feel he was getting competitive at-bats from his team.
The Hoosiers also get decent but unspectacular pitching. Will Coursen-Carr gave up just four hits and struck out four in 5 1/3, but he gave up two hits and hit a batter to start the sixth, and Smith decided to bring in Ryan Halstead in the sixth, presuming the game was on the line. Halstead got the Hoosiers out of that jam, but that forced him to try to get a 4 2/3 inning save and the Bulldogs got to him in the eighth. Brian Korte stepped in to a tough situation against Porter with runners on second third and left a pitch up in the zone that Porter drove into the gap.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The Hoosiers have been called a Cinderella story for most of this week, but that’s a mostly inaccurate description. Indiana has never been on the brink of elimination, and it has never faced a team that it was widely considered by people who follow the game closely on a national level to be significantly inferior to. They went 3-0 in the Bloomington Regional and though Florida State was favored in the Super Regional and the Seminoles certainly had home field advantage and also the experience and aura of 21 College World Series appearances, FSU was the No. 7 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and Indiana was for all practical purposes the No. 10, one of four teams that were considered for the final two national seeds. They were seeded higher in the tournament than both Louisville and Mississippi State.
But now they are on the brink, and now they are facing a team that is considered their notable superior. Oregon State is the No. 3 overall seed, and losing to Mississippi State on Saturday seemed to only anger the Beavers. Their pitching staff is among the nation’s very best, and left fielder Michael Conforto is one of the best all-around players remaining in the tournament.
So that’s the gauntlet that Indiana faces. If the Hoosiers get past Oregon State, they also have to beat Mississippi State twice. Pulling that off will make for a real Cinderella story.
WHO SAID WHAT:
An Interview With:
COACH TRACY SMITH
THE MODERATOR: Tracy, give us an overview.
COACH SMITH: Don’t read anything into Travis not ‑‑ he just got lost on the way. That’s a heck of a ballgame. I think it had all kinds of drama, all the good stuff you like to see as a spectator. But the problem we had tonight, I think, from our side is we didn’t put balls in play. Left plenty of runners on base.
Actually runners at third base less than two outs, and just didn’t move baseballs and had some really bad at‑bats in the middle of that game. A lot of that I think goes to the pitcher and what he was doing to us. But when you let good teams hang around, then it gets a little crazy towards the end.
But we struck out 14 times tonight, which is something that’s pretty uncharacteristic of us. But we know ‑‑ we know that we’re capable of coming back. And I think that’s probably the best thing with this group right here is a loss ‑‑ I would say a loss is a loss is a loss. It doesn’t matter how you lose them, by 20 or by 1. It’s still a loss.
We’re not going to focus too much on that. We’re going to regroup. We’ve got a confident group. They’ve been confident all year. And our thoughts now are moving on to Oregon State.
THE MODERATOR: Questions?
Q. Scott, you obviously had a little bit of success against Girodo, but what made him just so tough what was he doing out there, what made him hard to get hits off of?
SCOTT DONLEY: He was mixing up his pitches real well and spotting up. He was coming off sliders a lot. He was keeping us off balance. He was able to locate and keep the ball down in the zone.
Q. Tracy, you mentioned the game Wednesday, Oregon State, just any initial thoughts on them and who your starting pitcher will be?
COACH SMITH: Again, right now, I want to sit back and look at it and see where we are. But our thought is we’ve got to put together more consistent at‑bats, particularly in the middle of the game. So as far as the pitching part, we’ll go back, talk about it as the staff, and evaluate what they’ve done up to this point and look at the matchup that gives us the best chance.
Q. Scott, could you talk about in general the approach up there? I know you didn’t strike out personally but just the uncharacteristic amount of strikeouts over the two games, anything going on with the guys or just a slump and some good pitching?
SCOTT DONLEY: Like we said before, the pitchers are making good pitches. We have to step up there and put the ball in play. I’m sure we’re going to bounce back and can’t wait to get ready to play on Wednesday night.
Q. Tracy and Will. Tracy, just why did you decide to go with Will in the end and Will how do you feel like you threw tonight?
COACH SMITH: Well, I mean, he’s been throwing really, really well down the stretch. And we thought it was a great matchup for us. And I thought he did his job. You ask your starter to try to get you through five and give you a chance to win, and I thought he was ‑‑ I thought he did his job very effectively tonight.
And just a couple of pitches in the ballgame decide it. And really when I look at it, we could very easily be sitting here tonight coming to the second press conference. They got the big hit, and we didn’t. And so I thought both clubs executed on the mound. It just comes down to that. Sometimes you’re going to get them; sometimes you’re not. But I thought Will did a good job tonight.
WILL COURSEN‑CARR: Yeah, I mean, my stuff wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. I thought I did okay. I didn’t bear down when I think I needed to in that sixth inning, but other than that, I thought I did okay and I’m happy we have good starters down the road.
Q. Tracy, just want to get your thoughts on what MSU was able to do offensively against Halstead and then making the switch there in the eighth inning when Porter came up.
COACH SMITH: I missed the first part of the question. I’m sorry.
Q. Just your thoughts on what MSU’s hitters were able to do against Halstead tonight.
COACH SMITH: Well, they got ‑‑ I thought, again, I thought he did a pretty good job. They got the big two‑out hit which, to me, inflates the numbers a little bit. I thought the key at‑bat, names‑wise, it’s leaving me, but the one before the go‑ahead. Is that Henderson? I thought Henderson’s at‑bat was probably the best at‑bat of the night, both clubs. And I thought that was the key to them winning, because I thought Ryan was making some good pitches.
They kept fighting him off. And once they got the tying hit there, you got a little momentum going there. But, again, I mean that ball’s hit at somebody, no big deal. They just happened to fall tonight.
So I’m not going to make more out of it than there is. I thought Ryan did his job. Mississippi State hitters did their job.
Q. You talked about not necessarily the approaches at the plate. What specifically didn’t you like out there in terms of what guys were doing in terms of approaches?
COACH SMITH: Well, it takes a little bit to get me riled up. I was just a little upset about our lack of competitiveness in the batter’s box, and that’s taking absolutely nothing away from Girodo. He’s good. He’s really good. But he’s not Sandy Colfax, and we’ve got to do a better job of digging in there and just simply put balls in play. It wasn’t that we needed the two‑out base hit or the big double or something like that. We simply needed to put a baseball in play and we did not do that. And we’ve done a pretty good job of that all year.
My thought is that it’s an anomaly. This is a good group, and we’re going to regroup and go get it. We are who we are at this point. So we’re a good‑hitting team. We will be a good‑hitting team next baseball game.
Q. When you go lefty‑lefty with Cord against Porter, did it matter to you if they stick with Porter or they go to a right‑handed bat? What was your thought there, just your best arm at that point?
COACH SMITH: Which spot in the game?
Q. When you go to Cordy versus Porter.
COACH SMITH: Yeah, we wanted the left‑on‑left matchup. That’s the one thing, I guess if I had to ‑‑ you don’t want to get in the business of second‑guessing yourself. But if you could take the one pitch back, clearly you wouldn’t throw the 3‑1 fastball and the double.
But our philosophy has always been if you’re going to get beat, get beat with your best stuff. And I was ‑‑ just the left on left matchup there, I was comfortable with. If they pinch‑hit at that time, maybe I think we probably would have made a change. So like I said earlier, it’s a big hit by him. Good for him.
Q. Ammirati’s grounder in the eighth, from your vantage point, did Sam have a good chance at the double play ball? I know he ended up taking the out at first. And also just wanted to ask, in relation to that, did you feel like it was a lot of little things just not going your way tonight?
COACH SMITH: The ground ball, he was deep. It would have been a banger. I can’t sit here and say he would have been safe or would have been out.
No, it really wasn’t the little things tonight. The little things were just putting the baseball in play. You strike out 14 times, you’re not asking the opposition to make plays. And I think that was the difference.
We had plenty of guys on base in scoring position, and we just didn’t move the ball. And as I said, if you allow a good team like that, it makes these guys have to throw ‑‑ the pitchers have to throw presser pitchers late in the game when you really should be sitting with the three, four, five, comfortable lead.
So to me it wasn’t the little things that Bob will hear or anything like that. But we didn’t execute offensively in the batter’s box tonight and we lost.
Q. Scott, you had a good look on deck. When Sam gave that ball a ride, what did you think? Did you think even at this park it had a chance to get out?
SCOTT DONLEY: I wasn’t thinking that. I don’t know. I just saw him hit it and put a real good piece on it. And I thought it was going to be a double but then it kept carrying. It was more of a line drive. He smoked that ball.
Q. Tracy, you talked about the runners in scoring position but it seemed like it was either the fifth or sixth, you had two on, no out, bunt. How big of a situation was that situation for Girodo to get out of that?
COACH SMITH: It was huge. Same thing. You get the guys over and then you don’t finish the deal. That seemed to be the story of our middle innings there. And it’s a credit to him because I always say you certainly get on your guys. Well, it’s not like they aren’t trying to get your guys out either. So I think he really did an excellent job of executing his pitches, but we didn’t do a real good job of making his job difficult. But, yeah, that was a big momentum swing, I think.
Q. Will, you were a little shaky there in the first inning to start it off. Would you credit that to the magnitude of the game, the College World Series, and what kind of helped you settle in as the game progressed on?
WILL COURSEN‑CARR: Yeah, I was a little nervous. Looking around, there was a ton of people there. But once you get that first inning out of the way, you don’t think about it at all.
Q. Can you talk about the decision to bunt with Basil in that situation with runners on first and second and why you didn’t let him swing away?
COACH SMITH: Remind me. My memory’s terrible.
Q. There’s runners on first and second, fifth or sixth.
COACH SMITH: What was the question?
Q. Can you talk about your thinking in having Basil bunt on that play instead of letting him swing away?
COACH SMITH: I thought the guy was settling in. In my mind, if ‑‑ I know how we hit against certain pitchers. In my mind, a run or two is important at that time, because I think we had, what, 3‑to‑1 lead. I thought if we could get another run or possibly two, I felt pretty good about that, with the pen that we have. That’s why I bunted with him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.