Dogs claim 4-1 win over USC

STARKVILLE - Brad Jones laced a two-run triple in the fifth inning Sunday afternoon lifting No. 17 Mississippi State to a 4-1 win over Southern California in the final game of the 2004 National Bank of Commerce Classic at Dudy noble Field.

Jones' triple into the left-centerfield gap broke a 1-1 tie. The sophomore first baseman from Orlando, Fla., later scored on a triple by Thomas Berkery to complete the day's scoring.

Southern Cal (7-10) won two of the three games in the NBC Classic weekend series, which closed a season-opening 12-game homestand for the Bulldogs (10-2).

"This is really a nice win," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "We pitched well enough and played defense well enough to win the series. Unfortunately, we didn't swing the bats and left too many men on in the first two games of the series. Today, we got timely hitting, made all the plays again and the pitching was solid."

The emergence of the pitching staff may have been the story of the season's first homestand. Alan Johnson worked the first four innings for State, allowing a run on three hits while striking out two and walking none.

Former Caledonia, Miss., star Josh Johnson (2-0) worked the next two innings and earned the win with scoreless relief work. Starkville native Saunders Ramsey came on to blank USC over the final three frames, striking out three of the nine batters he faced en route to his second save of the week and season.

"Saunders (Ramsey) has been awesome," Polk said. "That takes a lot of pressure off our staff. It has meant we have used Brad (Corley) less. The bullpen has done a great job. Alan (Johnson) is getting stronger each time as well."

MSU grabbed its first lead of the series by scoring in the opening inning. A Craig Tatum RBI double scored Jeffrey Rea, who opened the game with a single. Rea's hit extended the former Nettleton star's hit streak to nine games.

Southern Cal answered with one run in the third inning. Jon Brewster, Rafael Torres and Blake Sharpe strung together hits that inning for the Trojans. Sharpe's single scored Brewer. However, the Southern Cal shortstop was thrown out trying to take second on the hit.

The Bulldogs then grabbed the lead for good with the three runs in the fifth inning.

"I'm really glad that Southern Cal came here and played this series," Alan Johnson said. "This was really good competition that will help get us ready for the SEC season. We battled back hard all week. The pitching staff has thrown well this year. As pitchers, we always have confidence that our guys are going to come through and score some runs."

Steve Gendron and Tatum each had two hits for the Bulldogs. MSU finished with nine hits and played error-free ball.

Southern Cal was limited to four hits by the three MSU pitchers. Sharpe was the only multiple hitter for the Trojans with a pair of singles.

Jon WIlliams (0-2) was chased in the fifth inning by the Bulldogs. Clayton Wentworth, James Luna, Matt Cassel and Andy Guy worked in relief for Southern Cal.

MSU plays away from Dudy Noble Field for the first time this season in the coming week, taking on Louisiana Tech Tuesday and UL-Monroe Wednesday in 6:30 p.m. games at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson.

State opens league play Friday hosting Tennessee in a three-game weekend series.

MISSISSIPPI STATE 4, SOUTHERN CAL 1

USC (7-10) 001 000 000 - 1 4 1
MSU (10-2) 100 030 00x - 4 9 0

WP-J. Johnson (2-0). LP-Williams (0-2). Sv-Ramsey (2). 2B-Tatum. 3B-B. Jones, Berkery, Hunter. T-2:08. A-1,679 (6148 paid)


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