MSU Baseball Drops Opener to Georgia

ATHENS, Ga. – A three-run sixth inning was the difference as the 24th-ranked Mississippi State baseball team dropped a 4-1 decision to Georgia in a Southeastern Conference baseball game played Friday night at UGA's Foley Field.

With the defeat, the Maroon and White saw a four-game win streak in league play snapped. MSU fell to 19-7 overall and 4-3 in conference play, while Georgia improved to 12-14 and 4-3. Despite some inconsistencies, the homestanding Bulldogs have actually won two of three Friday nights in the early stages of league play.

In the UGA sixth inning, Levi Hyams began the inning with a single. That hit ended the night for MSU starter Devin Jones. After a strikeout and balk call on MSU reliever Chad Girodo, Kyle Famer hit a two-run home run breaking a 1-1 tie. Zach Cone then reached on a one-out single. Andrew Busby followed Girodo to the mound. After a walk, balk and wild pitch, Kevin Ruiz closed the game's scoring with a sacrifice-fly.

Perhaps the game's turning point happened an inning earlier. In the fifth inning, the Maroon and White loaded the bases with nobody out but failed to score. Adam Frazier reached on a leadoff walk. Wes Thigpen then connected on a sacrifice bunt attempt where an error was made and no out recorded. Nick Vickerson drew a walk to load the bases.

Georgia ace Alex Wood recovered with three consecutive strikeouts to snuff that threat.

"We couldn't put the ball in play when it mattered most," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We had the bases loaded and nobody out and couldn't score. That really hurt us. We really had them on the ropes but couldn't find a way to take the lead."

For the contest, MSU actually stranded nine base runners, compared to two for Georgia. The Bulldogs had first and second with one out in the first inning and did not score. The last at-bat also showed promise as C.T. Bradford and Frazier began the inning with back-to-back singles.

Alas, Tyler Maloof entered in relief. Maloof got a ground ball out and game-ending double play ball to snuff the final threat by the guests.

The offensive struggles ruined the best conference start of the season by Jones. A junior right-hander, Jones (2-4) was lifted after allowing a leadoff single in the sixth inning. Jones allowed three hits and two runs (both earned), with five strikeouts and one walk. After Girodo and Busby, Evan Mitchell threw two innings of shutout relief for MSU.

Georgia scored in the first inning. Levi Hyams reached as a hit batsman. A ground ball by Connor Welton forced Hyams out. After a steal of second base, Welton scored on an RBI-single by Cone.

MSU battled back for a 1-1 tie in the third inning. Thigpen began the inning with a double. After a sacrifice-bunt by Vickerson, Thigpen scored on a ground ball out by Ryan Collins.

"We have to put this one behind us and come out ready to compete against one of the better pitchers in the league Saturday afternoon," Cohen said.

Georgia finished with six hits. Cone and Brandon Stephens each had multiple hits.

Wood (3-3) worked seven innings, allowing three hits and one run (earned), with eight strikeouts and four walks. Blake Dieterich threw the eighth inning before Maloof closed the contest, securing his ninth save.

MSU finished with five hits. The Maroon and White had no multiple-hitters and went from Thigpen's leadoff double in the third inning until Bradford's leadoff single in the ninth inning without a hit.

The series resumes with a 1 p.m. CT first pitch on Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start. MSU is scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton (4-1, 2.61 ERA), while UGA is scheduled to start junior right-hander Michael Palazzone (3-1, 2.15 ERA). The series finale is at 1 p.m. CT Sunday.

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