By Eric Olson
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. —
Trey Porter surely made the home folks proud back in Hurley, Miss., population 950.
With Porter driving in the go-ahead runs in the eighth inning, Mississippi State took control of its bracket in the College World Series with a 5-4 victory over Indiana on Monday night.
The senior came into the game with a total of seven at-bats in the last month. By the end of the night, Bulldogs fans in the crowd of 25,260 were chanting his name.
"I guess being a kid from a small hometown," he said, "you set out to play in the College World Series one day, but you never see it happening because there are so many baseball players out there, so much talent.
"I just happened to step in the box when the game was on the line, and anybody else could have stepped up on this team — that's how we are. We fight until the end, we never give up."
The Bulldogs (50-18) need one win to reach next week's best-of-three finals. They're off until Friday, when they'll play Indiana (49-15) or Oregon State. Those teams play an elimination game Wednesday.
Porter's clutch hit didn't end the drama against the Hoosiers, who are in the CWS for the first time.
Sam Travis just missed tying the game in the bottom of the ninth 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.
"He doesn't move his feet and throws the ball in the dirt to make everybody's heart stop," Bulldogs coach John Cohen said.
Chad Girodo (9-1) pitched a strong 6 1/3 innings in relief of Mississippi State starter Trevor Fitts. Girodo struck out 10 in his second-longest outing of the season and allowed two runs on seven hits.
Girodo held off the Hoosiers when they had runners in scoring position in the fifth and seventh innings.
"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," Indiana coach Tracy 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."
Holder required just two pitches to earn his 20th save.
"I really wanted to finish for myself," Girodo said. "I knew if I got in any trouble Holder was behind me and would close it out, and he did. That's really hard to do, to come in with a tying run on third and get the job done. But that's why he's one of the best closers in college baseball."
The Bulldogs went into the eighth inning down 3-2. Brett Pirtle and Rea singled leading off 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.
Porter, a .250 batter who had two hits in 14 at-bats since May 4, 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.
Cohen said he never considered pinch-hitting for Porter in the eighth.
"After his first at-bat I thought he saw the baseball really well," Cohen said. "I don't know how close the ball he hit earlier in the ball game came to getting out, but he got good barrel to it."
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.
"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."