State Takes Series on Sunday

The smallest guy in the park delivered the biggest hit as Mississippi State rallied for a 5-3 win over the No. 12 University of Alabama baseball team Sunday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.

MSU sophomore second baseman Jeffrey Rea, who stands 5-5 and weighs 150 pounds, delivered a clutch two-out hit to score two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Bulldogs a much-needed series clinching win over the Crimson Tide.

Rea's two-out, two-run single came off losing pitcher David Robertson (6-3),who allowed two runs and three hits in 3 1/3 innings of relief. Robertson walked one and struck out six in the loss.

Mississippi State's (30-16, 11-12 SEC) winning rally started when Joseph Hunter drilled a one-out single to left field. Hunter, who returned to the line up Friday after he had missed 11 games with a broken right thumb, snapped an 0-for-8 series slump with the base hit, his first since April 15.

After left fielder Brian LaNinfa drew a walk, pinch-hitter Jeff Butts grounded out to Greg Paiml at second base for the second out before Rea came through with another clutch hit against the Tide.

Rea was 2-for-5 with three RBI in Sunday's win over the Crimson Tide. He was 6-for-13 in the series with three runs scored and three RBI. In the last two years, Rea is 14-for-27 against Alabama at the plate.

"Rea is an outstanding player," Alabama coach Jim Wells said. "(Robertson) made a nice pitch. He has hit everything we have thrown him the last two years. It was a sluggish game with not much offense. They broke through and we did not."

Alabama (34-16, 14-10 SEC) had numerous chances in the game but could not get the one clutch hit it needed. The Crimson Tide was 3-for-14 in the loss with runners in scoring position.

Perhaps the best chances came in the fourth and sixth innings but failed to capitalize on those opportunities.

Alabama stranded the go-ahem run on base with one out in the fourth inning as Rocky Scelfo grounded out and Cale Iorg flied out to end the threat.

The Tide's best chance to break the game open came in the sixth inning as senior DH Allen Rice doubled and moved to third on Gabe Scott's single to center.

With runners on the corners and one out, MSU went to its bullpen and right-hander Mike Valentine shut down the Tide on just two hits the rest of the game.

Junior Evan Bush took a called third strike for the second out and senior right fielder Morrow Thomley tapped out to the pitcher to end the Tide's last chance to take to lead. Valentine (4-0) worked a career-high 4 2/3 innings and allowed two hits, one walk and struck out four for the win.

Valentine replaced MSU starter Jon Crosby, who allowed three runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings, with one walk and two strikeouts.

Alabama starter Brandon Belcher left the game after allowing a pair of two out bases hits in the bottom of the fifth inning. Freshman right-hander David Robertson, who earned the save on Saturday, stranded the go-ahead run at third as he struck out Hunter on a called third strike to end the inning.

Belcher allowed three runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in his first start since he strained his oblique muscle at Florida on April 17. The sophomore walked two and struck out four.

For the third straight game, Alabama scored first as the Tide plated two runs in the top of the second inning for a 2-0 lead.

Thomley, who went 2-for-4 with two doubles, led off the inning with a double down the left field line and later scored the first run of the game on senior first baseman Zac Welch's RBI double into the right-center field gap.

Freshman Cale Iorg reached on a two-out error by MSU shortstop Bunky Kateon to allow Welch to score from second to give Bama the early 2-0 lead.

MSU quickly answered with three runs on four hits in the bottom of the second inning. Joseph McCaskill singled and moved to third on Brad Corley's double down the right field line. McCaskill scored on Joseph Hunter's sacrifice fly to center to make it a 2-1 game.

Rea's two-out, ground ball single through the right side of the infield scored Corley with the tying run and Ed Easley followed with a base hit to center to score LaNinfa, who drew a one-out walk, with the go-ahead run as MSU grabbed the 3-2 lead.

Alabama evened the score with a pair of doubles in the fourth inning. Thomley ripped his second double of the game down the right-field line and scored on Kody Valverde's double to left to tie the game at 3-3.

The game remained tied until State broke through with a two runs in the eighth inning capped by Rea's two-run single.

Despite the loss, Alabama remains in a first-place tie with LSU in the SEC Western Division standings. Alabama has been in first place after each of its 21 league games this season.

The Crimson Tide returns home for its final SEC series of the season as they host the Arkansas Razorbacks next weekend at the Joe. The series opener is set for Friday, May 13 at 6.p.m.


*Alabama has now lost 13 of its last 16 series against Mississippi State in Starkville. Alabama has not won here since 2001.

*Overall, MSU has won the last three series with Alabama, dating back to 2003. The Bulldogs have won seven of the last nine meetings with the Crimson Tide.

*Alabama had a season-high seven doubles in the loss to MSU. The seven doubles fell just two short of the Alabama single-game record for doubles. The UA record is nine.

*After combining for nine runs in the first inning in the first two games of the series, Alabama and Mississippi State played a scoreless first inning on Sunday.

*Senior RF Morrow Thomley led off the second inning with a double down the left field line to extend his hitting streak the six consecutive games. Thomley's hitting streak is the longest active streak on the UA team.

*MSU scored three runs on four hits in the bottom of the second inning to take a 3-2 lead. With 3-2 deficit, Alabama has now trailed in 38 of its 50 games this year. Overall, Alabama has been tied or trailed in 220 of 428 innings this season.

*Alabama and Miss. State combined for five runs in the second inning on Sunday. The Crimson Tide scored two runs to take a 2-0 lead only to see the Bulldogs answer with three in the bottom of the frame to grab a 3-2 lead.

*Alabama and MSU combined to score eight runs in the second inning in this three-game series. MSU tallied five, second-inning runs, while UA scored three runs.

*MSU (9) and Alabama (8) combined to score 17 runs in the first two innings in the series.

*Alabama first six hits in the game were doubles. Senior LF Gabe Scott's one-out single in the fifth inning snapped the string of consecutive doubles.

*With the base hit, Scott has now reached base safely in 39 straight games dating back to Feb. 25.

*Scott (1-for-4, K) and junior 3B Evan Bush (0-for-4, 2 K) were a combined 1-for-8 in Sunday's loss, with three strikeouts and two foul outs to the catcher.

*Freshman RHP David Robertson recorded nine strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings in two relief appearances against Mississippi State.

*Senior Matt Grooms delivered a pinch-hit double in the ninth inning and 8-for-16 as a pinch-hitter in 2005. For his career, Grooms is 11-for-21 as a pinch-hitter.

*MSU right fielder Brad Corley was dropped to the sixth spot in the batting order on Sunday and went 3-for-4 in the win over Alabama. Corley was 1-for-16 in his previous five SEC games entering the series finale.

*MSU left fielder Brian LaNinfa reached base all four times on Sunday, with three walks and a base hit.

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