As expected, the game was a pitcher's duel with MSU ace junior left-hander Paul Maholm going against Ole Miss relief closer Stephen Head.
Maholm, 3-0 against Ole Miss lifetime coming into the game, allowed a run on two hits in the first inning, but settled down after that, retiring nine in a row before allowing a leadoff walk in the 4th.
While Maholm was shutting down the Rebel hitters, the Bulldog hitters were having a little better success against Head, scoring single runs in the 1st and 5th.
With Mississippi State leading 2-1 going into the 7th, Ole Miss right-fielder Justin Donovan led off the 7th with a single to left field. After a sacrifice and fly ball to center field advanced Donovan to third base, a wild pitch scored him, tying the game.
In the bottom of the 7th, MSU leadoff hitter Matthew Maniscalco hit a ball to right center that was allowed to drop between the two Ole Miss outfielders. After Maniscalco stole third, Matthew Brinson knocked him in to put the Bulldogs back on top, 3-2.
"There was some miscommunication," said Ole Miss outfielder Seth Smith of the double by Maniscalco. "I should have caught the ball."
The Rebels had a chance to tie the game in the 8th inning. Head walked with one out. Shawn Yarbrough was put in as a pinch runner. After Charlie Waite flew out to right field for the second out, the next batter, Brian Pettway, had an infield single that was thrown away at first base by MSU third baseman Steve Gendron. Yarbrough, waved home on the errant throw, was thrown out at home plate on a perfect throw and catch by right fielder Brad Corley and catcher Craig Tatum to end the inning.
"Corley double clutched. He couldn't believe the guy was going," said Polk. "Craig Tatum made a tough catch; it was in between hops. I'm surprised he caught it. To make that catch and make that tag was very athletic."
In the top of the 9th, Ole Miss got a one-out single by pinch hitter Dustin Cliburn. Matt Tolbert followed him with another single. Coach Polk brought in MSU closer Jonathan Papelbon to replace Paul Maholm. Papelbon got Jonathan Swearingen to pop out to the second baseman for the second out of the inning. The next batter, Seth Smith, on a 0-2 count, hit a bloop single that a diving Jeff Butts got in his glove but couldn't hold onto, allowing the tying run to score. Papelbon then threw a wild pitch that allowed the lead run to score before ending the inning.
Mississippi State got a one-out single from Steve Gendron in their half of the 9th, giving MSU players and fans hope. Coach Bianco brought in Eric Fowler to face Matthew Brinson. A wild pitch allowed Gendron to advance to second base, then Brinson walked, putting men on first and second with one out. Craig Tatum followed that with an RBI double, tying the game, 4-4. Brad Corley was intentional walked to load the bases. Ole Miss brought in Brae Wright, who had earlier defeated MSU this season in the Mayor's Trophy Game. J.B. Tucker, who pinch hit for Robby Goodson, grounded into a third to first inning-ending double play.
Neither team scored in the 10th and 11th.
After the Rebels went scoreless in the top of the 12th, MSU's first two batters went down on an easy popup to first and a ground out to short. Thomas Berkery, on the first pitch from Wright, hit his walk-off home run over the left field fence.
"I told a couple of hitters that Brae Wright was coming in, coming in," said Polk. "He came in on Berkery. I guarantee you it was on the black of the plate and Thomas loves that pitch. To juice it out of this ball park with the wind conditions; the kid really got into the ball. When it left the infield area, I thought it had a chance, but I was thinking the wind would bit it down but it just kept going."
Leading hitters for MSU were Thomas Berkery with 3 hits, and Maniscalco, Brinson, Tatum and Joseph Hunter with 2 hits apiece.
For the Rebels, the leading hitters were Jonathan Swearingen with 3 hits, and Seth Smith and Brian Pettway with two hits apiece.
MSU starting pitcher Paul Maholm went 8.1 innings, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits, 4 walks and 4 strikeouts.
Ole Miss starting pitcher Stephen Head threw 6.1 innings, allowing 3 runs on 9 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.
"Stephen was very gutsy out there," said Bianco. "He gave us an opportunity to win. But you have to credit State for some big, clutch two-out hits, not just the last one but Tatum and Berkery."
Jamie Gant picked up the victory after allowing no runs on 1 hit, 1 walk in 2 innings of relief. He struck out 3.
"I was hitting my spots," said Gant. "I felt like I could throw my curve ball for strikes anytime. And it had a lot of bite to it tonight. They weren't going to hit my curve ball tonight. I had good velocity on my fastball also. It was probably in the upper 80's, low 90's tonight. With both of them working together, I could keep them off balance, because they couldn't sit on either one."
Brae Wright took the loss, allowing 1 run on 2 hits and 2 strikeouts in 3.1 innings.
"I thought that Brae Wright did a great job," said Bianco. "I thought that he was tremendous. He put a lot of zeroes up but we just couldn't score a run."
Mississippi State will face LSU, a winner over Arkansas, Friday night at 8 p.m. Alan Johnson will start for MSU while Nate Bumstead will start for LSU.
MSU is now 4-2 in extra inning games this season.
MSU is now 5-1 all-time against Ole Miss in the SEC Tournament. In Birmingham, MSU leads the series 2-0.
MSU now leads the all-time series against Ole Miss 225-173-5.
Matthew Maniscalco recorded his 269th career hit as a Bulldog. That places him sixth all-time at MSU in career hits, moving him ahead of current Texas Ranger Rafael Palmeiro.
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco is now 3-10 against MSU, while MSU coach Ron Polk is 83-44 against Ole Miss.
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.