Brad Corley's eighth-inning single inside the bag at first base scored Matthew Brinson from second base to break a 4-4 deadlock to cap the see-saw battle. Brinson opened the frame with a double into the left field corner off Matt Guillory (2-2), the last of three ULM pitchers in the game. Guillory allowed a run on two hits during his 1-2/3 innings of pitching.
"I was going up there to slap it the other way; do whatever I could to get Brinson to third base," said Corley of his game-winning hit. "I got lucky because it got through. It felt good to get the hit."
Papelbon entered the game in the eighth inning after the Indians had scored twice to tie the score. The MSU right-hander sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a single to end the inning and worked around a two-out single in the ninth to register the win.
Mississippi State broke a scoreless deadlock in the fourth inning off ULM starter Matt Green. Matthew Brinson extended his career-best hitting streak to a dozen games with a one-out single to center field. Brad Corley followed with a single to right, both runners advanced on a balk, and Brinson came home on Robby Goodson's sacrifice fly to center field.
"He's tough," said Polk of Green. "He throws 88, 89 and it is tough at dusk. The guys had a tough time picking up the ball. It looks pretty easy from the stands to see his pitches, but down here, it's really coming. And he was effectively wild. You couldn't dig in against him."
ULM answered with a pair of runs on two hits in the fifth. Mario Filippi reached on a bloop single to right, advanced two bases on an infield groundout to third and scored on a wild pitch. Andy Chance then belted his fourth home run of the year, a solo shot to left, giving the Indians a 2-1 lead.
The Bulldogs reclaimed the lead at 4-2 in the seventh, knotting the score with a run on three walks and a passed ball and taking the lead on Matthew Maniscalco's double to left. Two of the runs were charged to Jim Miller, who walked two batters and gave up the double to Maniscalco.
MSU starter Jeff Lacher, who scattered six hits and gave up a pair of runs in seven solid innings of mound work, gave way to Jamie Gant in the eight.
"He's done a good job all year," said Polk of Lacher. "Mid-week games are tough. Ask Alabama and Ole Miss, both of whom are struggling with mid-week games. We are 19-4 in mid-week games, which is good. Lacher is one the reasons for that. He comes in here and competes."
Gant walked the first batter he faced and then gave up a Joey Wolfe single to right that was helped along by a two-base fielding error by Bulldog rightfielder Brad Corley. One run scored on the error and Wolfe, who advanced to third, later plated the tying run on a sacrifice fly by Ben Jones.
But Papelbon halted the ULM rally and the Bulldogs regained the lead in the bottom of the eighth on Corley's single. The inning included a heated debate between MSU head coach Ron Polk and third base umpire Mark Capps after Corley was called for runner interference near third base. Polk was ejected from the game following the argument.
"We brought in Gant," said Polk. "He has been pitching lights out, but he couldn't throw strikes. He was trying the best he could, but he was over-throwing a little bit. Thankfully, Paps comes in and neutralizes things."
Mississippi State returns to the rugged SEC Western Division race this weekend at Dudy Noble Field, playing host to the fifth-ranked SEC-leading LSU Tigers (31-14-1, 15-5-1 SEC).
"Three victories would be nice, but we can't go into the series thinking that we have to sweep," said MSU first baseman Matthew Brinson. "We have to take it one game at a time, inning by inning. If we do that, hopefully, we will be successful.
"This is the stretch run. This is when it starts getting fun because games become more important."
MISSISSIPPI STATE 5, LOUISIANA-MONROE 4
ULM 000 002 020 --- 4-9-0
MSU 000 100 31X --- 5-6-1
WP - Jonathan Papelbon (6-1). LP - Matt Guillory (2-2). HR - (ULM) Andy Chance (4). T - 2:41. ATT - 5,687 (paid), 1,454 (actual).
Jeff Lacher, Jamie Gant (8), Jonathan Papelbon (8) and Craig Tatum. Matt Green, Jim Miller (7), Matt Guillory (7) and Joey Wolfe.
(Clint Parish, Photographer)
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.