It's getting hard to count the number of times that Mississippi State could have folded during their last two games at the SEC baseball tournament. They slogged through a 17-inning game against Missouri in a win-or-go-home first game. The Bulldogs would use 23 of their players in that game, which wore into Wednesday morning, and had to turn around and face South Carolina the next evening.
And the trouble didn't stop there for Mississippi State. Leading 3-0 with two outs in the fourth inning and the bases loaded, Mississippi State had a chance to break the game open. Brett Pirtle lined the ball into left field, where it bounced into the glove of Graham Saiko -- and was called a catch. Unnecessary replays showed that the ball clearly hit the ground, but the call cost Mississippi State at least two runs.
In the bottom of the inning, South Carolina rallied for three runs to tie the game. After having endured a marathon game and having seen a lead evaporate in part thanks to a bad call, no one would have blamed Mississippi State for giving up. Instead, they gave the ball to Myles Gentry, who pitched the remaining 5.2 innings while giving up just three hits and giving the rest of the decimated State bullpen a rest.
Then came the rather bizarre ninth inning. With runners on first and second and no one out, John Cohen did his favorite thing in all of baseball: He asked the next batter to bunt. Sure, the next batter was Hunter Renfroe, who is Mississippi State's No. 3 hitter and not very good at bunting. But this is college baseball we're talking about, and many head coaches just love to bunt.
Renfroe popped out, and there was a moment of hope for the Gamecocks. It would prove short-lived. Pirtle would walk, and Wes Rea would single to knock in the go-ahead run. The inning also featured a missed suicide squeeze bunt attempt that led to the runner on third being tagged out, another RBI single, and an inning-ending runner's interference, but that was all the bizarre window dressing to a game that was pretty much decided at that point.
The South Carolina loss means that there will be one SEC East team after the Gamecocks face Vanderbilt on Thursday in an elimination game. Either the No. 1 team in the country or arguably the most accomplished program of the last three years will go two-and-out after Thursday's game. Of course, even when it was en route to two national championships and a third College World Series championship series appearance, South Carolina has never had much success in Hoover.
Mississippi State, meanwhile, is doing just fine living on the edge. In fact, Wednesday night was just additional proof that the edge is where the Bulldogs thrive.