OMAHA, Neb. — Indiana coach Tracy Smith says he won’t waste any time lamenting how close Sam Travis’ ninth-inning fly ball came to leaving the ballpark. Or how close Mississippi State closer Jonathan Holder came to throwing the ball away and allowing the tying run to score.
Fact is, the Hoosiers lost 5-4 on Monday night, and now they’re one loss away from seeing their first appearance to the College World Series end.
“I would say a loss is a loss is a loss,” Smith said. “It doesn’t matter how you lose them, by 20 or one, 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. Our thoughts now are moving on to Oregon State.”
Indiana (49-15) will play the Beavers on Wednesday, with the loser going home and the winner meeting Mississippi State again on Friday.
Trey Porter drove in the go-ahead runs in the eighth inning for Mississippi State (50-18), which needs one win to reach next week’s best-of-three finals.
Chad Girodo (9-1) turned back Indiana after the Hoosiers had runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh innings in addition to the ninth.
“You get the guys over and you don’t finish the deal, that seemed to be the story of our middle innings there, and it’s a credit to him,” Smith said of Girodo. “He really did an excellent job of executing his pitches, but we didn’t do a real good job of making his job difficult.”
Porter’s clutch hit in the eighth inning didn’t end the drama.
Travis just missed tying the game when his fly to left-center bounced off the wall, just under the yellow line, and he ended up with a double. Scott Donley’s groundout made it a one-run game and brought on Bulldogs closer Jonathan Holder.
Michael Basil chopped the ball in front of the mound. Holder fielded it cleanly, but he short-armed his throw to first and Wes Rea had to pick it up on the bounce to end the game.
The Bulldogs erased a 3-2 deficit after Brett Pirtle and Wes Rea singled leading off the eighth against reliever Ryan Halstead (4-5). Pirtle beat Will Nolden’s throw home to tie it on DeMarcus Henderson’s liner into right.
Brian Korte took over for Halstead with two out, and Porter sent his 3-1 pitch into the right-center gap to score Rea and Henderson for a two-run lead.
Girodo relieved starter Trevor Fitts with one out in the third, and the two accounted for 14 strikeouts. Girodo had 10 of them.
Porter had entered the game in the sixth inning as a pinch hitter. He gave the Hoosiers faithful a scare with a drive to the right-field warning track that Nolden caught to keep it a one-run game.
Porter, a .250 batter, didn’t play in Saturday’s 5-4 win over Oregon State and came into Monday with just two hits in his previous 14 at-bats since May 4.
Indiana freshman starter Will Coursen-Carr was solid in his 5 1-3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks.
Indiana had a chance to add to its 3-1 lead in the fifth after having runners on second and third with one out. But Nick Ammirati tagged out Travis at home and Girodo struck out Casey Smith.
The Bulldogs pulled to 3-2 in the sixth on Rea’s single and were poised to get more with the bases loaded and one out. Ammirati popped out to shortstop before Porter’s long fly to right ended the inning.