USM Bests Bulldogs 5-2

STARKVILLE, Miss. - First-time starter Daniel Best (2-0) limited No. 12 Mississippi State (29-10-1) to two runs over six innings Wednesday night to lead No. 21 Southern Miss (31-11) to a 5-2 win over the Bulldogs and a split of their two-game midweek set at Dudy Noble Field. It's the fourth consecutive year the teams have split their two-game series.

Best, who checked State on two hits over the first five frames, scattered six hits on the night, walked two and struck out three. He retired the first batter he faced in the seventh, then gave way to John Nicholas, who retired all eight batters he faced to earn his second save.

Both teams scored single tallies in the second. USM opened the inning with back-to-back singles by Clint King and Griff Israel and a run-scoring one-out hit to right by Kevin Coker. State answered in similar fashion, getting inning-opening hits by J.B. Tucker and Brent Lewis, a one-out walk by Jon Mungle and a sacrifice fly to left by Brad Jones that tied the score at 1-1.

Freshman pitchers Brad Corley for MSU and USM's Daniel Best for USM, on career-longest outings, kept the score tied through the fifth inning. But USM got to Corley for a pair of runs in the sixth. Jarrett Hoffpauir singled, Coker drew a walk, Beau Griffin advanced the runners with a sacrifice bunt, and Matt Shepherd laced a 1-2 pitch into right field, scoring Hoffpauir and Coker.

State staged a rally of its own in the bottom of the sixth. Steve Gendron opened the frame with a single, Matthew Brinson doubled to left, and Brent Lewis sent Gendron home with a sacrifice fly to left.

USM used three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a Bulldog throwing error to plate a pair of insurance runs in the ninth, stretching the final score to 5-2.

USM designated hitter Brad Willcutt paced all hitters with a 3-for-5 plate performance and the Golden Eagles piled up 14 hits. Matt Shepherd, Jeff Cook and Kevin Coker added two hits each.

Relief pitcher Brian Owens followed Corley to the hill in the seventh and worked an inning and a third of scoreless relief. Saunders Ramsey and Brooks Dunn worked the final two innings, each charged with a run.

Mississippi State returns to SEC competition on the road this weekend, opening a three-game interdivisional series with Florida (29-12-1, 8-9-1 SEC) Friday at 5:30 p.m. CDT.

USM 010 002 00 --- 4-13-1
MSU 010 001 00 --- 2-6-0
WP - Daniel Best (2-0). LP - Brad Corley (0-2). SV - John Nicholas (2). T - 2:33. ATT - 6,021 (paid), 3,140 (actual).
Brad Corley, Brian Owens (7), Saunders Ramsey (8), Brooks Dunn (9), J.B. Tucker and Craig Tatum (9). Daniel Best, John Nicholas (7) and Kevin Coker.

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