Missed opportunities haunt Mississippi State in loss to Virginia

The margin for error is always small in baseball, but missed opportunities become greater in the postseason. Mississippi State left runs and outs on the field in their loss to Virginia.

Jurrangelo Cijntje got the start for the Bulldogs and threw well. However, Virginia drew first blood in the winner’s game when Cavalier third baseman Eric Becker gave his team a lead with a two-RBI triple.

Surprisingly, State answered in the next half inning when David Mershon and Dakota Jordan singled to bring up the slumping Hunter Hines. The Madison, Miss. came up big when he hit a 450-foot home run to center field to give State a 3-2 lead.

MSU extended their lead in the fourth when junior Bryce Chance, who reached on an infield single, scored from second base after a pickoff attempt went into center field. The Bulldogs had all the momentum and Cijntje was dealing.

The sophomore flamethrower pitched four straight scoreless innings, and despite the threat, the Bulldog offense couldn’t score more runs. Stranding runners with a lead seems harmless until the momentum shifts.

State had a pair of runners in the top of the seventh, with Jordan at the plate with two outs. The UVA crowd was looking for something to cheer about, and they got it when Jordan struck to end the Bulldog threat.

That momentum carried into the bottom of the inning as the Cavaliers tied the game, again thanks to Becker, who got a two-RBI single. Cijntje was bored and settled for a draw; the ambidextrous pitcher faced one of the best lineups in the country, working seven innings and making two errors.

The Bulldogs had two runners on base in the eighth inning, but wasted them again when designated hitter Aaron Downs struck out to end the threat. Again, Mershon and Jordan reached base in the ninth, but Hines couldn’t score a second time as he grounded to second for the third out.

Tyson Hardin took over for Cijntje in the eighth and threw a scoreless inning, but ran into problems in the ninth. The senior pitcher gave up a leadoff double and walked a batter.

However, he got a groundout for the first out. Runners were on the corners with one out, but the Dover, Florida, native is a groundball specialist. Hardin did get a groundball to second baseman Amani Larry, but he couldn’t field it cleanly, and the Cavaliers walked a batter.

It was a challenging move, but as the Bossier City, La. resident. plays it up cleanly, it is likely a double play that ends the inning. Larry shouldn’t be solely blamed for the loss, however, as the Bulldog offense stranded nine runners, including six in the final three innings.

Mississippi State had every chance to win this game, but failed to capitalize on their chances, while Virginia took advantage of every one of them. The Bulldogs will take on St John’s tomorrow at 11am CT on ESPN+.

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