MSU rally falls short against USC, 5-4

STARKVILLE , Miss. - No. 17 Mississippi State rallied Friday night in the opening game of the fourth annual National Bank of Commerce Classic. But the last inning uprising fell a run short as Southern California (6-9) held off the Bulldog charge for a 5-4 win.

The Bulldogs loaded the bases to open the ninth inning and managed to score two runs before a double play grounder and a strikeout ended the game and MSU's season-opening nine-game win streak.

"Southern Cal has a very nice ball club," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "With a relatively-young squad, we need some experience against good competition. We had some timely hits but not enough of them to come back and win the game."

Southern Cal (6-9) sprinted to a 3-0 lead early. The Trojans scored once in the second inning and added two more scores in the third inning.

USC put together four hits in the third inning. The big hit was an RBI double by Joey Metropoulos. Another run also scored after MSU pitcher Jamie Gant was called for a balk.

The lead grew to 4-0 an inning later when Hector Estrella singled up the middle, scoring Daniel Perales.

The Bulldogs (9-1) slowly rallied with single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.

MSU scored first on a single by Craig Tatum and two innings later on a single by Brad Corley. Corley's hit extended the MSU outfielder's hit streak to 10 straight games.

In the ninth inning, the Trojans plated a critical insurance score. Michael Moon lined a double down the left field line with two outs to up the advantage to 5-2.

In the MSU ninth inning, Jeff Butts reached on a dropped third strike. Jeffrey Rea followed with a walk.

Southern Cal then brought Bret Butler to the mound. Steve Gendron greeted Butler with a single to load the bases. Corley singled to close the gap to 5-3. Tatum then grounded into a double play, forcing in a run in to make it 5-4. Butler then struck out Brian LaNinfa with a runner at third base to end the contest.

"We had our chances to win the game," said Gant, who threw the first eight innings for the Bulldogs. "Now, we have to come back and start a new streak in the next game."

Gant (2-1) allowed nine hits and three earned runs with one walk and a career-high seven strikeouts. Todd Doolittle worked the ninth inning, allowing the run-scoring double, which ended a scoreless inning streak by the MSU bullpen at 15 1/3 innings.

For Southern Cal, Ian Kennedy (3-0) threw 6-2/3 strong innings to pick up the win. Kennedy struck out nine and walked two, allowing one earned run on five hits. Clayton Wentworth and Josh Rummonds followed in relief before Butler picked up his first save.

Corley paced MSU's nine-hit attack with three hits. Rea and Gendron each had two hits as the Bulldogs managed seven hits out of their first three lineup spots.

Moon and Billy Hart each had two hits. The Trojans finished with 10 hits.

MSU and Southern Cal resume their three-game series Saturday at 2 p.m.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 5, MISSISSIPPI STATE 4

USC (6-9) 012 100 001 - 5 10 1
MSU (9-1) 000 010 120 - 4 9 0

WP-Kennedy (3-0). LP-Gant (2-1). Sv-Butler (1). 2B-Moon, Metropoulos, Clement, Rea, Gordon. 3B-Frost. T-2:51. A-2,107.


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