Bama rallies past MSU

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama baseball team erased a one-run deficit by scoring four runs in the bottom of the seventh inning en route to a 9-7 win over the Miss. State Bulldogs Saturday afternoon at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

The win reduces Alabama's magic number of the Southeastern Conference Western Division championship to one game. The Crimson Tide can clinch its first Western Division championship since 1996 with a win Sunday over Miss. State or an LSU loss at Florida.

Senior first baseman Brent Boyd's two-run double off MSU right-hander Jonathan Paplebon gave UA its first lead of the game. Peter Stonard led off with walk and moved to second base on Jeremy Brown's single to right field. Boyd followed with a two-run double, scoring both runners to give the Crimson Tide a 7-6 lead.

"Boyd came up with the bit hit and that broke the ice for us," Alabama head coach Jim Wells said. "We got better swings late in the game and that inning seemed to get us going."

Travis Garner, hitless in his first eight at-bats in the series, followed with a double down the left field line to score Boyd with the 8-6 lead. Garner then swiped third base and scored on Beau Hearod's sacrifice fly to center field, extending the lead to 9-5.

Boyd finished the game with three hits and three RBI and posted his sixth game winning RBI in the Tide's last seven victories. In addition to his seventh-inning game winner, Boyd doubled in the first inning and added an RBI single in the fifth.

MSU (28-21-1, 11-14 SEC) mounted a threat in the eighth inning off winning pitcher Brian Reed, but managed only one run and left the bases loaded.

Matthew Maniscalco, a native of Oxford, Ala., collected his fifth hit of the game with an RBI single to score pinch-hitter Joe Mungle. Mungle led off the inning with a base hit to right field. An Adam Pavkovich error leaded the bases with one out and prevented an inning-ending double play. Reed then got Matthew Brinson to pop up and ended the inning when J.B. Tucker flied out to left field.

Reed (4-0) allowed one run and three hits in four innings for the win. He walked two and added three strikeouts. The game ended when Mingle hit into a double play in the ninth.

Papelbon (2-4), the third MSU pitcher, was charged with the loss. The right-hander allowed four runs on four hits in two innings. He walked one and hit one batter.

Alabama (42-9, 19-7 SEC) committed four errors in the game and hit into a season-high four double plays.

"It was an ugly game and ugly win, but it was a win," Wells said. "We scored some runs, but left a ton of runners on base. We had a lot of walks and a lot of errors, some that could have costly ones."

The Bulldogs wasted little time against Jeffrey Norris, scoring four runs on five first inning singles to grab a 4-0 lead.

Maniscalco, Gendron and Brinson singled to load the bases with one out. Jason Burkley followed drove home Maniscalco with a base hit to right field. Enrico Jones followed with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Gendron with the 2-0 lead.

Casey Long's RBI single to left-center field drove home Brinson with a 3-0 MSU lead. Burkley scored from second on a two-base throwing error when Scott McClanahan missed his cutoff man and threw the ball into the UA dugout. Norris struck out Winston Pearson to end the inning, stranding Long at third base.

The Crimson Tide scored single runs in each of the first three innings to cut the MSU lead to 4-3. Alabama missed out on a couple of early opportunities that could have produced more offense than the three runs.

McClanahan led off the bottom of the first inning with his 10th home run of the season. It was McClanahan's second home run of the series and second in as many at-bats. The home run down the left field line also marked the third time this season the senior has led off the game with a home run.

Hearod singled to open the second inning and later scored on McClanahan's sacrifice fly to center field, cutting the deficit to 4-2.

Stonard led off the third inning with a single and later scored from third when Travis Garner hit into a double play. Alabama also stranded five base runners in the first four innings, including leaving two runners in scoring position in the first inning when Garner grounded out to short on the first pitch.

MSU extended its lead to 5-3 with an unearned run in the fourth inning. Brent Lewis reached on a fielder's choice and later scored on Gendron's infield single. The inning was prolonged on an error by Stonard at second base, allowing Gendron to come to the plate.

Alabama tied the game in the fifth inning, scoring two runs on three hits. UA also had three runners thrown out on the base paths preventing an even bigger inning.

Stonard started the inning with an infield hit up the middle that almost turned into a spectacular play by Maniscalco at shortstop. Jeremy Brown walked and Brent Boyd followed with a RBI single, scoring Stonard from second base and sending Brown to third base.

Garner hit a grounder to Gendron at third base, who caught Brown in a run-down between home and third. Brown was tagged out by the catcher J.B. Tucker for the first out. Tucker then flipped the ball back to Gendron, who tagged out Boyd trying to advance from first to third on the play.

Hearod tied the game with a single to left field, scoring Garner from second base. Hearod was put out at second base to the end the inning.

MSU regained the lead in the sixth inning when Brent Lewis reached on a bloop double and scored a Chad Henry's infield single.

In addition to Boyd's three hits, Stonard added three hits and scored three runs for Alabama. Brown and Hearod had two hits each for the Crimson Tide.

Gendron and Long had two hits apiece to join Maniscalco with multiple hits for the Bulldogs.

The two teams will conclude their three-game series with a 2 p.m. game Sunday afternoon at the Joe. Alabama will send senior right-hander Shane Sanders (7-1, 3.09 ERA) to the mound, while MSU will counter with lefty Joey Collums (3-6, 3.56 ERA).

The 2002 Alabama senior class will be honored in a pregame ceremony prior to Sunday's game at approximately. The Alabama seniors are first baseman Brent Boyd, catcher Jeremy Brown, pitcher Lance Cormier, centerfielder Scott McClanahan and pitcher Shane Sanders.

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