Ebers gets win in MSU debut

STARKVILLE - Eric Ebers felt a little nervousness about his homecoming of sorts.<P> A native of Illinois, Ebers earned a victory in his first career appearance as a pitcher at Mississippi State. Ironically, the win came against Illinois.

Ebers scattered five hits over 4-1/3 innings of relief work as the Bulldogs (2-0) defeated Illinois 9-6 in the second day of the MSU Challenge.

A crowd of 2,792 watched as the Bulldogs won for the second time in as many tournament outings.

"There was a little nervousness," said Ebers, who played junior college ball at John A. Logan CC in Carterville, Ill. "It felt real strange going against a team that had Illinois accross its uniform. I've grown up watching Illinois play so this was different. I felt good. Basically, I tried go out there and compete. Fortunately, we've gotten a lot of run support in the first two games this season."

The Bulldogs collected 12 hits after pounding out 20 hits in Friday's 12-0 win over Western Kentucky.

Sophomore Brad Corley had three hits, including a towering three-run home run in the sixth inning. That round tripper moved MSU back out of danger. Illinois had closed within 6-4 in the top of the sixth innning. The home run also matched all of Corley's longball output from 58 starts last season.

"We are seeing the ball real well," Corley said. "I think it carried over from yesterday. The team is really swinging the bats well. You could tell we played with a lot of confidence after our first game this year. We just want to to keep it up. It would mean a lot to win each of the first three games in this tournament."

The Bulldogs grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first inning. Designated hitter Brian LaNinfa hit a three-run home run. For the red-shirt freshman from Venice, Fla., it was his second home run in as many games.

State ran the lead to 5-0 on an RBI-single by Steve Gendron in the second inning.

Illinois battled back with pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innnings. For the Illini, Drew Davidson hit a two-run home run in the fourth innning. An innning later, leadoff hitter Vince DiMaria started things with a double. After a pair of groundouts, Dusty Bensko and Davidson followed with back-to-back hits. A two-out error then cut the defecit to 6-4 and also chased MSU starter Alan Johnson.

Johnson worked 4 2/3 innings, allowing six hits and four runs (three earned). Johnson struck out four and walked four while facing 24 batters. Ebers (1-0) was touched for single runs in the seventh and ninth innings but hung on for the win.

"It makes it easier when you see the run support," said Ebers, a native of Chester, Ill. "I feel like we've been playing some good competition this weekend. You really hope the offense can continue to score runs and the defense continues to make plays."

Ebers allowed two earned runs. He walked one and struck out two.

For MSU (2-0), Jon Mungle, Craig Tatum and LaNinfa each had two hits. Corley had a double in his three-hit total, while Jeff Butts hit a triple. Corley and LaNinfa were the only MSU players with multiple RBIs, each with three.

For Illinois (2-1), DiMaria, Bensko, Davidson and Chad Frk each had two hits. Davidson had two RBIs.

Starting pitcher Joe Ziemba (0-1) worked into the sixth inning and took the loss. Ziemba allowed 11 hits and eight earned runs with three walks and one strikeout. Jeff Paarlberg, Brandon Murphy and Jonathan Smiley worked in relief for the Illini.

In Saturday's opener, Illinois shut out Western Kentucky 10-0. MSU and Illinois play again at noon Sunday. Senior Jeff Lacher is expected to get the start on the mound for the Bulldogs in the tournament finale.

MSU 9, ILLINOIS 6
Illinois (2-1) 000 220 101 - 6 11 2
MSU (2-0) 410 103 00x - 9 12 1

Ziemba, Paarlberg (6), Murphy (7), Smiley (8) and Robinson; Johnson, Ebers (5) and Tatum. W-Ebers (1-0). L-Ziemba (0-1). 2B-DiMaria, Raymond, Corley. 3B-Butts. HR-Bensko (1), Davidson (1), Corley (1), LaNinfa (2). T-2:45. A-2,792.


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