By TERRY McCORMICK
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - JJ Bleday belted a walk-off home run just over the center field wall as Vanderbilt rallied for a 4-3 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday night to force a decisive third game Sunday in the Nashville super regional.
Bleday took a 2-0 fastball from Zach Neff just past the reach of a leaping Jake Mangum for his fourth homer of the season, one that extended the Commodores' season.
It marked the second consecutive night that the best-of-three series has ended with a walk-off home run. Mississippi State's Elijah MacNamee hit a two-run walk-off homer for the Bulldogs in the opening game of the series Friday night.
Bleday's blast made a winner of reliever Chandler Day (2-1), the fourth Commodore pitcher of the night.
The Commodores (35-26) scored one run in each of the final two innings. In the eighth, Harrison Ray laced a one-out triple and scored the tying run on Ethan Paul's bloop single to center field.
Mississippi State (36-27) took an early lead, plating two runs in the top of the second when Justin Foscue led off with a walk and Luke Alexander reached on a single before Mangum delivered a two-out, two-RBI single.
The Commodores answered with a run in the bottom of the third. Austin Martin hit a one-out double down the left field line and scored on Stephen Scott's single up the middle. Connor Kaiser doubled to put runners at second and third with two outs, but Mississippi State pitcher Konnor Pilkington struck out Philip Clarke to end the threat.
The Bulldogs got that run right back in the top of the fourth as Alexander opened the inning with an infield single, took second on a wild pitch by Patrick Raby, then scores on Jordan Westburg's double to left-center.
Vanderbilt missed several scoring opportunities throughout the game. In the bottom of the fifth, Julian Infante, trying to take an extra base on a hit by Martin, was thrown out at third by Mangum from center field. The Commodores still had runners on first and third with one out in the inning, but failed to score as Pilkington retired Bleday on a popup and struck out Kaiser.
Pinch hitter Ty Duvall singled in Pat DeMarco to pull Vanderbilt within one run in the sixth inning. However, the Commodores left the bases loaded when reliever Zach Neff struck out Scott to end the inning.
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