State throws first punch - beats LSU 7-3

Mississippi State jumped out to a 7-0 lead and never looked back as the Bulldogs held off LSU, 7-3, in the Tigers' Southeastern Conference home opener Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.

The game was played before a paid crowd of 8,521, the third-largest paid attendance figure in Alex Box Stadium history. Friday's actual crowd was 6,388.

LSU (No. 1 Collegiate Baseball, No. 3 Baseball America and ESPN/Sports Weekly) dropped its first opening game of a weekend series this season, falling to 19-4 overall (2-2 SEC). The Bulldogs (No. 24 Collegiate Baseball, No. 25 ESPN/Sports Weekly) snapped a two-game losing skid, raising their season mark to 14-6 (2-2 SEC).

LSU will try to even the series when it sends freshman southpaw Clay Dirks (4-0, 1.48) to the mound on today at 2 p.m. MSU will counter with senior right-hander Jeff Lacher (2-2, 3.86). The series concludes tomorrow at 1 p.m.

Right-handers Jamie Gant and Saunders Ramsey limited the Tigers to six hits Friday, ending LSU's 13-game streak of reaching double figures in hits. The six hits also tied the Tigers' season-low. LSU was also held to six hits in a 2-1 win over Texas State on February 28.

Gant (3-2) earned his third victory of the season, going 5.2 innings and allowing three runs on five hits. Ramsey picked up his third save, allowing no runs on one hit, while striking out four in 3.1 innings of relief.

"Gant is going to be a high draft pick," said LSU head coach Smoke Laval. "You have to tip your hat to him. It's going to happen sometimes."

Mississippi State opened up a 4-0 lead in the third, taking advantage of a critical error by shortstop Matt Horwath. After Jeffrey Rea singled to lead off the frame, Steve Gendron grounded a routine double-play ball to starting pitcher Justin Meier, who turned and fired to Horwath at second base.

Horwath dropped the ball, giving the Bulldogs the chance to score four unearned runs. Brad Corley and Joseph Hunter delivered RBI singles, and Brian LaNinfa capped the scoring by ripping a two-run single through the middle.

Rea and Gendron lined back-to-back doubles in the fourth, giving the Bulldogs a five-run cushion.

In the fifth, Mississippi State collected three straight hits to chase Meier (4-1) who left after his shortest outing (4.0 innings) of the season. The sophomore right-hander was roughed up for seven runs (three earned) on 11 hits, while walking two and striking out four.

Corley singled to start the fifth before Hunter doubled and LaNinfa drove in his third and fourth runs on a sharp single to left field.

Jordan Faircloth relieved Meier and induced a double-play groundball to minimize the damage. The Tigers finished the night with five double plays, tying a team record set against Georgia on April 13, 2002.

LSU finally got on the board in the fifth when J.C. Holt smashed a two-run, opposite-field homer into the left field bleachers, slicing the deficit to 7-2. It was Holt's third homer of the season.

"It was just one of those nights," said Holt, who finished the game 1-for-4 with two RBI. "This is what happens when you play in a tough conference like the SEC. If we come out tomorrow and do our job, we'll be alright."

The Tigers added another run in the sixth, and could have scored more but Ramsey, in relief of Gant, got Will Harris to ground out to second base with runners at the corners, erasing the threat.

Ramsey was dominant over the next three innings, setting down 10 of the 13 batters he faced to close out the game.

MSU -- 004 120 000 - 7 14 1
LSU -- 000 021 000 - 3 6 1

WP -- Gant (3-2)
LP -- Meier (4-1)
S -- Ramsey (3)
E -- Butts (2); Horwath (3); DP -- MSU 1, LSU 5 LOB -- MSU 6; LSU 8
2B -- Rea (5), Gendron (8), Tatum (4), Hunter (3); Gill (5); HR -- Holt (3); SF -- Stavinoha (2); CS -- Rea 2 (3)
Time -- 2:42 Att. -- 8,521 (paid); 6,388 (actual)

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