And Polk has no doubt his team will respond to the upcoming challenge. "We've had some tough games in our season like that Memphis game," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "The next three games we go to Arkansas and sweep. We had a tough game against Alabama where they scored 7 runs in the first inning and we came back and won something like 9-1 the next day."
In the first inning, before MSU starting pitcher Todd Nicholas could get an out, 6 runners had reached base and 4 runners had crossed the plate. By the time the inning was over, LSU had scored 9 runs on 6 hits, 2 walks and 13 batters had come to the plate. Nicholas didn't record an out, giving up 5 runs on 4 hits and a walk. The inning was such a nightmare even MSU's defense, one of the best in the nation, got into the act by committing 2 errors.
"LSU swung the bat well," said Polk of the Tigers big first inning. "They got the bang, bang play at first that started it all and we just couldn't get out of it. (Todd) is either on or off."
Just to show you how disastrous of an inning it was for MSU pitching, in their previous 58 games, teams had scored a total of 18 runs.
LSU continued the onslaught in the top of the second, scoring 5 runs on 4 hits, 2 walks and 1 hits batsman against two MSU pitchers, sophomore Saunders Ramsey and true freshman left-hander Brooks Dunn. All of the runs were charged to Saunders Ramsey, who had replaced Nicholas in the first.
After one and a half inning, LSU led 14-0.
While the LSU hitters were having a field day at the expense of the MSU pitching early in the game, LSU pitcher, Bo Pettit, who was 1-3 with an 8.38 ERA against MSU coming into the game, shut the Bulldog hitters down the first two innings, allowing no runs on no hits.
In the third inning, Dunn finally solved the Purple and Gold hitting tidal wave by retiring the side in order.
MSU coach Ron Polk, realizing the game was now out of hand, started bringing in a pitcher an inning, giving each one some work in preparation for the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Ace reliever Jonathan Papelbon pitched the top of the 4th, retiring the side in order.
"Once the lead got expanded it was just a matter of letting everybody get some work in for next week," said Polk, who used seven pitchers in the game. "Everybody got an opportunity to throw. We would rather put them in now than throw them in the bullpen."
MSU finally put some runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the 4th, scoring 3 runs on 2 hits and a couple of walks. Goodson knocked in one run with a single and Berkery hit a two-run double over the centerfielder's head.
While LSU was dominating the game on the field, the MSU fans were dominating the stands so badly the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium security, to a chorus of boos, ejected a Bulldog fan due to ringing his darn illegal cowbell. Just kidding folks, at least about the domination in the stands. The MSU fan was ejected.
LSU finally got on the scoreboard again in the top of the 6th inning, scoring 3 runs against junior right-hander Robby Goodson on 1 hit, 4 walks and 1 error.
During the inning, another MSU fan was ejected for ringing, as at least one Louisiana sports reporter called it, that obnoxious cowbell.
MSU responded in their half of the 6th inning by scoring 2 runs on a two-run home run by J.B. Tucker, making the score 17-5.
With a little help from yours truly, J.B. Tucker mentioned who his home run was for. "Yeah, I hit that (home run) for him," said Tucker, referring to the MSU fan rejected from the stadium for ringing the cowbell. "We were glad to see the fans supported us. Even when we are losing, it is good to see our fans behind us."
Both teams went down quietly in the 7th, ending the game by way of the 10-run mercy rule. MSU pitcher Jacob Blakeney, who could wind up being MSU's number four starter in the NCAA Tournament, retired the side in order in the 7th on two strikeouts and a ground out.
"Blakeney could fill in that four starter spot," said Polk."That's very possible. He's had some shoulder problems, that's why he hasn't had too many opportunities to pitch. He was going to start tomorrow at noon time."
Now, MSU heads home and waits to hear if they will be hosting an NCAA regional site next weekend.
"We did what we had to do over here, win two games," said Polk. "We would have liked to have being in the championship game. Our goal now is to host."
The players are looking forward to that possibility as well. "It would be a major advantage," said Tucker. "I'm dying to see a regional in Starkville. This could be our year."
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.