It was a starting pitcher's turn to be a hero for Mississippi State on Friday, or least one of the heroes, as the Bulldogs tried to clinch a berth in the College World Series Championship Series. In the second-longest outing for a Mississippi State starting pitcher this postseason, Kendall Graveman scattered four hits over 5.2 innings to allow just one run and lock down the win against Oregon State.
It was only the third time in the tournament that a Bulldog starter went more than five innings -- and all of those starts belong to Graveman, who threw 5.1 innings in the first game of the Charlottesville Super Regional and 6.1 innings in the first game of the Starkville Regional. And on Friday, those innings relieved the stress on a bullpen that will now have an entire weekend to rest before the opening game of the final series.
The other hero was Hunter Renfroe, who hit his first home run since May 4, a three-run shot that pushed Mississippi State's lead to 4-0 and meant the run Graveman eventually did allow was nothing more than academic. Ross Mitchell and Jonathan Holder followed Graveman with their usual relief performances, which in Holder's case meant claiming the school's career record for saves with 30.
It's hard to overstate how big a win in the championship series would be in the trajectory of Mississippi State athletics. Like South Carolina in 2010, Mississippi State has not won a national championship in the three highest-profile men's sports offered by the SEC. Already, State has stayed in the tournament longer than teams, like South Carolina or LSU, that arguably have a better baseball pedigree than the Bulldogs.
But all of that will be little more than a footnote in the program's history if Mississippi State doesn't follow through. These Bulldogs have a chance to make history, and with a few more performances like the ones they got Friday, they will.