Bulldogs maul LSU, 15-4

Key weaknesses once again led to an LSU loss, this time a 15-4 pounding Friday night at the hands of Mississippi State at Alex Box Stadium. Not for the first time this season, poor starting pitching coupled with defensive errors and an abysmal bullpen performance led to the Tigers' downfall.

First baseman Matthew Brinson contributed three doubles and six RBI for the Bulldogs, who as a team pounded four LSU pitchers for 19 hits on the night. MSU sophomore starter Paul Maholm (W, 5-1) gave up eleven hits in his 120-pitch complete game, but allowed only three earned runs, struck out six and walked only two.

Tiger starter Bo Pettit (L, 2-4) was pulled from the game after facing three batters in the fourth inning. In his three-plus innings of work, he yielded six runs on eight hits, walked three and struck out only one. Reliever Brian Wilson, uncharacteristically used in long relief, held his own for much of his four innings of work before running out of gas in the eighth.

Although the Tigers (16-12, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) were able to put up double-digit hits, all but one were singles and three were erased on double plays - the most turned against LSU this season.

"I thought we moved the ball well offensively," said LSU head coach Smoke Laval. "Still, eleven hits and only four runs … I guess for seven innings we played well and had our chances."

State (14-8-1, 4-3 SEC) put its first run on the board in the top of the first inning when leadoff hitter Matthew Maniscalco reached on Tiger shortstop Aaron Hill's throwing error and scored two batters later on Brinson's first double of the game. Hill's error was his ninth of the season, breaking a tie with team captain Wally Pontiff, who regained the dubious honor with a miscue of his own in the sixth

But Hill would not be outdone and upped his total to ten in the ninth when he mishandled a bouncing grounder hit his way.

"It's not like we're out there trying to make errors or anything," said an obviously exasperated Pontiff, who for the first time began to feel the heat of the sometimes-unforgiving Alex Box crowd. "If (the fans) don't want to see us play, then don't come to the ballpark. Cheer for us, but don't yell at us when we're doing negative things.

"I thought that showed a horrible side of the fans that I've never seen before," he continued. "… I don't mean all the fans, but there's certain individuals yelling some things. The ballpark is kind of quiet because it cleared out, and you can hear (the negative comments). It's upsetting to the fans who are true-blue to LSU. And when those people make those kind of comments it upsets not only me, but the team as well. If they don't want to see us make errors and that kind of thing, then don't come to the ballpark, you know? That's the bottom line."

LSU answered the Bulldog run in the bottom of the second on three consecutive singles by Sean Barker, Eric Wiethorn and Matt Heath. Heath's chopper up the middle scored Barker, but the Tiger threat ended after first baseman Clay Harris struck out and catcher Chris Phillips grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. After two innings, the game was tied 1-1.

The Bulldogs regained the lead in the top of the next inning, scoring four runs that would give them a lead that would last the remainder of the game.

Center fielder Casey Long led off the inning with a single and quickly swiped second before Pettit walked Maniscalco. Another base on balls to Chad Henry loaded the bases, and a pair of singles by Brinson and Jason Burkley gave MSU a 3-1 advantage. Third baseman Brent Lewis lined out to Hill for the first out of the inning, but the very next batter was able to sacrifice Henry home. A two-out single by Jon Mungle plated Brinson for a 5-1 State lead.

LSU battled back in the bottom of the frame, leading the inning off with back-to-back singles by Jon Zeringue and Rocky Scelfo. Both Tigers scored in the inning, Zeringue on Hill's single to right and Scelfo on a sacrifice fly by Pontiff. But Maholm would not allow another run until the bottom of the ninth - an unearned and inconsequential score by Harris.

Tiger pitching coach Dan Canevari came with the hook in the top of the fourth after Pettit gave up a single, a walk and an RBI double. Wilson came and retired the first six hitters in order, and faced only two above the minimum over the next four innings.

"Wilson played well tonight," Laval said. "But where was he seven other times? That's what I mean – I never know what I'm getting (out of a player) day in and day out: Bo Pettit at Vanderbilt or Bo Pettit at Ole Miss and now tonight."

By the eighth inning, Wilson began to lose velocity on his fastball and his curve began to hang in the zone. MSU took advantage and added three more runs on three straight hits — a double and a pair of singles — to open the inning. Bulldog batters ripped two more Tiger pitchers for five runs in the inning, batting around the order and increasing the lead to 9-3.

MSU batted around again in the ninth, pasting a hapless Weylin Guidry for four runs in the final frame. The Tigers' final run of the night came when Harris was able to reach second on a Bulldog throwing error and came home ahead of Zeringue's liner to center.

"It's nice to hit some balls hard, and I got a few today," said Brinson, who doubled in both the eighth and ninth innings. "We played well, but (LSU) is definitely not vulnerable. I mean, they're LSU. This team can exploded for 20 runs in one inning. There's no way we're looking past these guys"

Maybe in the past, but apparently not against MSU. Dating back to last season's series between the two teams, State won its third consecutive game against LSU and has scored 55 runs their last four games in Baton Rouge.

"We need to stick together," said Pontiff, whose 0-for-3 performance put an end to his 20-game hitting streak, "because we feel all we have is one another. It feels like the world's against us right now."

"I tell the players that although they're the problem, they're also the solution," Laval said. "I wish I had a bottle to rub and a genie would come out and give us three wishes. But I told (the players) that it doesn't work that way. Let's face it and overcome the problem. Because we can, and because we are the solution."

The Tigers, off to their worst start in SEC play since the beginning of the Skip Bertman era in 1984, will play host to MSU once again at the Box Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.

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