Michael Collins and Eric Hollis singled and Samford used a double steal, an errant pickoff throw and a wild pitch to plate two runs off MSU starter Brad Corley in the second inning. Two innings later Kip Snowden singled up the middle, Hollis walked and both came home on Richard Bishop's two-run double into the left field corner.
State plated its first run in the fourth on back-to-back doubles by Steve Gendron and Matthew Brinson and made it a 4-2 game in the fifth on Joseph Hunter's sacrifice fly to right.
Samford, with freshman relief pitcher Justin Klinger making his first mound appearance of the year, carried the 4-2 lead into the ninth. Klinger walked the first two batters he faced and was replaced on the mound by Ehren Wasserman. The runners advanced on Thomas Berkery's sacrifice bunt, and Wasserman retired Jeff Butts on a fly ball to left for the second out. But the game stayed alive when Joseph Hunter's infield single plated one run and the ball slipped from the throwing hand of third baseman Kip Snowden, allowing pinch-runner Winston Pearson to scamper home with the tying run.
Freshman right-hander Jamie Gant replaced Corley in the fifth and silenced Samford through the 10th inning. Gant struck out a career-best five during his 5-2/3 innings of no-hit shutout relif. Jonathan Papelbon (5-0) followed Gant to the hill in the 11th, retiring six of the seven batters he faced over the final two frames.
Matthew Maniscalco opened the 12th inning with an infield single off Stephen Artz (0-6), the fourth Samford pitcher in the game, and moved to second on Jon Mungle's sacrifice bunt. Artz intentionally walked Steve Gendron and retired Brinson on a fly ball to right, but couldn't get past Tatum, who lined a 1-2 pitch into right field, allowing Maniscalco to race home with the winning run.
Maniscalco, Brinson and Butts had two hits and Hunter drove in two runs for the Bulldogs. Samford got two hits from Sae Evans.
Mississippi State travels to Columbia, S.C., Thursday and opens a three-game weekend series with defending SEC champion South Carolina (23-14, 7-8 SEC) Friday at 6:30 p.m.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 5, SAMFORD 4 (12)
SU 020 200 000 000 - 4-6-2
MSU 000 110 002 001 - 5-11-2
WP - Jonathan Papelbon (5-0). LP - Stephen Artz (0-6). T - 2:55. ATT - 5,666 (paid), 1,606 (actual).
Brad Corley, Jamie Gant (5), Jonathan Papelbon (11) and Craig Tatum. Lee Brady, Justin Klinger (5), Ehren Wasserman (9), Stephen Artz (11).