"I am very proud of my boys for coming up here and winning two after going to a tough place at Fayetteville, Arkansas and winning three there," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "We have had pretty good success at (Ole Miss') new ballpark."
Johnson allowed three base runners in a masterful career-longest, nine-inning pitching performance that required just 97 pitches. UM lead off batter Jonathan Swearingen opened the game with a single up the middle but was later erased on a double play. In the fourth inning UM shortstop Chad Sterbens singled sharply up the middle and reached second base when Seth Smith walked. But the Bulldog right-hander retired left-handed hitting Brian Pettway and Stephen Heard on fly balls to the outfield to end the inning and the retired the Rebels in order the remainder of the game, notching MSU's third route-going pitching performance in two weekends of league play.
"Alan has pitched well every time out," said Polk. "This was the first time he went nine but this was an easy day for him because it was a cool day and a lot of things happened early in the count. I don't know how many 'I got it' routine fly balls that Ole Miss hit during the ballgame."
The Bulldogs scored twice off UM senior starter T.J. Beam (3-1) in the second inning, who issued a one-out walk to State DH Brent Lewis and then gave up a two-run opposite field blast to Tatum. Tatum singled in both runs in Friday's Bulldog win.
"I thought that T. J. Beam was going to be good and he was," said Polk. "The first inning he was blowing the ball by us. I think that Craig Tatum's home run set him back a little bit. That really turned the tide in our favor. From that point in time, we did a pretty good job of expanding the lead by getting one or two runs."
Senior shortstop Matthew Maniscalco extended his hitting streak to 12 games, opening the third with a single and later scoring on Matthew Brinson's sacrifice fly to center field. State expanded its lead to 4-0 in the fourth inning. Lewis' smash to third base was misplayed, Thomas Berkery followed with a double, and Joseph Hunter sent Lewis home on a sacrifice fly to center field.
UM's defensive woes continued the next inning when State parlayed Jon Mungle's lead-off triple to right and three Rebel fielding miscues into two more runs and a 6-0 lead.
While Ole Miss committed five errors in the game, the Bulldogs once again played perfect defense, including several good defensive plays in the outfield by Joseph Hunter and Jon Mungle.
"Because of the athleticism of (MSU's outfielders) Mungle, Hunter and Corley, this ballpark is tailored-made for them, especially for Hunter because this is a big, big ballpark in the gaps," said Polk. "It is probably the biggest one in the SEC and gives Joseph an opportunity to show how good of a defensive outfielder he is."
Beam allowed six runs on six hits and struck out six in five innings, giving way to Nick Bradshaw who one-hit the Bulldogs over the final four innings. Joseph Hunter scored the Bulldogs' final run in the ninth inning, reaching on a fielding error at shortstop and later scoring on Mungle's single to center field. Mungle and Gendron had two hits each to lead MSU's seven-hit attack.
The shutout gave MSU its first back-to-back shutout wins since 2000 and its first blankings against conference competition since 1990 when State bested Mississippi 17-0 and 9-0 at Oxford-University Stadium. The win also clinched the third straight SEC weekend series and the eighth series in its last nine visits to Oxford for MSU, now off to its best start since 1979.
The series concludes Sunday at 1:30 p.m. State sophomore Todd Nicholas (3-0, 1.65) will be matched with UM freshman lefty Eric Fowler (1-1, 2.73).
"I have a lot of confidence in Todd Nicholas," said Polk of his Sunday starter. "He has a good arm. If he pumps strikes in there, then we have a chance to do well. But at the same time, we haven't seen the freshman that they are throwing, so I'll be anxious to see what he looks like."
MISSISSIPPI STATE 7, MISSISSIPPI 0
MSU 021 120 001 --- 7-7-0
UM 000 000 000 --- 0-2-5
WP --- Alan Johnson (4-0). LP --- T.J. Beam (3-1). HR --- Craig Tatum (3). T --- 2:13. ATT --- 5,752.
Alan Johnson and Craig Tatum. T. J. Beam and Nick Bradshaw (6) and Charlie Waite.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org