Baseball wins; Still alive

The Alabama Crimson Tide, in desperate need of a victory, exploded for eight runs in the first inning and held off a late Miss. State rally to defeat the No. 17 Bulldogs 13-7 in a game that was delayed more than six hours by heavy rain and thunderstorms.

Alabama (33-21, 14-15 SEC) snapped a seven-game losing streak and in the process positioned itself for a berth in next week's SEC Tournament at the Hoover Met, which begins Wednesday, May 21.

With the win, Alabama now controls its own destiny for its eighth trip to the SEC Tournament in nine years under Coach Jim Wells. Alabama can clinch that SEC Tournament berth with a win over MSU in Sunday's series finale.

The Crimson Tide can also make the post-season field even if they lose the deciding game with the Bulldogs provided Arkansas loses at home to LSU or Florida loses at home to Florida. UA can also sneak into the post-season with a rainout Sunday in Starkville.

Alabama took all of the suspense out of the game with an eight-run first inning to knock out MSU starter and Pleasant Grove, Ala., native Alan Johnson.

Senior center fielder Travis Garner had two hits, two RBI and two stolen bases in the inning and capped the scoring with a straight steal of home against Johnson to make it an 8-0 game.

Sophomore first baseman Zac Welch put the Crimson Tide on the board with a two-out single to left field, scoring Garner with the first run of the game. Left fielder Ryan Beagle reached on a two-out error by MSU third base Steve Gendron, setting the stage for the Crimson Tide's offensive explosion.

Allen Rice and Charlie Lyons drew back-to-back walks and third baseman Evan Bush ripped a two-run double inside the third base bag to make it a 5-0 game. The two-run double was Bush's first RBI in 27 games for UA.

Garner followed with his second hit of the inning with a two-run triple off the top of the wall in right field, just missing a three-run home run. Two pitches later, with Adam Pavkovich at the plate, Garner stole home to give Alabama an 8-0 lead.

Garner paced UA's 13-hit attack with four hits, giving him 10 hits in his last three SEC games, including three straight multiple hit games. The Sturgis, Miss., native also scored three runs, drove in three runs and stole three bases.

Welch added three hits, two runs and one RBI for the Crimson Tide, while Beagle chipped in two hits, scored two runs and added one RBI.

Johnson (4-5), who left after the 57-pitch inning that lasted nearly 40 minutes, allowed eight runs on four hits in the first inning, with three walks and one strikeouts. He was only charged with one earned run after the Gendron error with two outs.

The first-inning eruption was more than enough for sophomore left-hander Brent Carter (9-5), who notched his league-leading fifth complete game of the season for the Crimson Tide. In nine innings, Carter allowed only two earned runs and 11 hits, while adding eight strikeouts and walking only one MSU batter.

Alabama increased its lead to 9-0 in the fourth inning when Garner led off with his second triple of the game and scored on Beau Hearod's sacrifice fly to right field.

The UA offense kept pouring it on scoring two more runs in the fifth inning to build an 11-0 lead. Meiners reached on an error by first baseman Matthew Brinson to open the inning and moved to third base on Beagle's double into right-center field. Rice collected his first hit of the game slapping a two-run single to left field to push the Crimson Tide's advantage to 11-0.

Senior right field Beau Hearod extended the lead to 13-0 in the sixth inning with an impressive two-run home run that well beyond the fence in left-center field.

Hearod's towering shot was also a historic blast for the Jennings, La., native as he became the 12th player in school history to hit 20 home runs in a single-season with his league-leading 20th round tripper. Aaron Clark was the last player to make that list with 22 home runs in 2001.

In addition, Hearod became the fourth player in school history to amass 200 career hits, 200 career RBI and 40 career home runs, joining Andy Phillips (1996-99), G.W. Keller (1997-99) and Jeremy Brown (1999-2002).

Miss. State (37-16-1,16-12 SEC) scored five unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to cut the deficit to 13-5. Two UA errors -- dropped fly balls by Hearod and Beagle in the outfield -- gave the Bulldogs two extra outs in the five-run inning.

Designated hitter Robby Goodson, who had three hits and five RBI in the series opener on Friday night, ripped a three-run double to right-center field to highlight the inning. Thomas Berkery also added an RBI single.

MSU pushed two more runs across in the seventh inning with four hits off Carter. Matthew Brinson plated one run with a double into right-center field and Goodson collected his fourth RBI in two at-bats to make a 13-7 game.

Goodson, a native of Vicksburg, Miss., has five hits and nine RBI in the first two games of the series with Alabama. In four games this week, Goodson has eight hits and 13 RBI to lead the MSU assault.

Alabama added to more runs in the ninth inning on RBI singles by Beagle and Garner to make the final score 15-7.

The 15 runs are the most by Alabama against Miss. State since a 16-3 win over MSU since a 16-3 victory in the opening round of the 1997 SEC Tournament in Columbus, Ga. Alabama has won 12 of the last 14 meetings with State, dating back to the 1999 post-season.

The series finale is set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon in Starkville. Alabama is expected to send junior right hander Seth Johnson (6-4, 3.63 ERA) to the mound, while MSU will counter with junior right-hander Jeff Lacher (5-0, 3.78 ERA).

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