"It felt good to be in a tight game," said Hunter, a sophomore outfielder from Germantown, Tenn. "You could tell that we played with confidence earned from the early wins. This was the first time we were challenged and had to find a way to win."
In the MSU eighth inning, Craig Tatum started things off with a one-out single to left field. Brian LaNinfa followed with an infield hit. Hunter then lined his shot off the second baseman's glove to bring Tatum home with the go-ahead run. And after a walk to Thomas Berkery, a wild pitch scored LaNinfa.
"We were able to put some runners on and get a couple of big blows," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "You don't feel comfortable in a game like this because one player can get the ball up in the jet stream and change the complexion of the game."
The contest proved a pitcher's duel between MSU's Eric Ebers and USA's Jeramy Simmons.
Ebers, making his first career start, worked a career-best and staff season-high 7-1/3 innings for the Bulldogs. The junior college transfer allowed two runs on five hits, walking two and striking out four.
"It felt good to throw on this type of day," said Ebers, who pitched previously at John A. Logan C.C. in Steeleville, Ill. "It didn't bother me because I am used to this type of weather. You just have to stay low and make sure the ball doesn't get driven. This was our first tight contest of the year so it was good to see us be able to pick up the win."
Junior right-hander Saunders Ramsey (1-0) worked MSU out of a tight spot in the eighth inning and struck out four batters of the six batters he faced in his 1-2/3 innings of relief. The former Starkville Academy star picked up his first career win. Thanks to Ramsey, the MSU bullpen ran its scoreless innings streak to 10-2/3 innings.
For USA, starter Jeramy Simmons (1-2) was almost as strong. He allowed seven hits and four earned runs in 7-1/3 innings of work. Simmons struck out seven and walked three before being relieved by Chase Christianson.
"Eric threw a nice ball game," Polk said. "Fortunately, Saunders came out and looked really sharp out of the pen. Jeramy Simmons is really a good pitcher. He has a nice mix of pitchers and we had to bunch together some hits to do anything."
The Bulldogs actually had three hits in a two-run first inning. State scored in the opening at-bat for the seventh time in eight games. MSU then broke the 2-2 tie with two runs on three hits in the eighth inning. The Bulldogs only had one other hit in the contest.
A Jeffrey Ray single and Brad Corley's RBI-double started the scoring in the MSU first inning. The double ran Corley's hit streak to eight straight games, while the single advanced Rea's mark to six straight. LaNinfa also had an RBI single in the first inning.
USA answered with single runs in the second and fifth innings. Justin Hawarah doubled to start the USA second inning and later scored on a fielding error. Clark Secchiari tripled and scored on an infield groundout to tie the score at 2-2 in the USA fifth inning.
Secchiari finished with three hits for the Jaguars. LaNinfa was the only multiple hitter for MSU with a pair of singles.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 4, SOUTH ALABAMA 2
USA (3-9) 010 010 000 - 2 5 1
MSU (8-0) 200 000 02x - 4 7 2
WP-Ramsey (1-0). LP-Simmons (1-2). 2B-Hawarah, Corley. 3B-Secchiari. T-2:32. A-1,248 (5,947 paid).