Tennessee 9, Mississippi State 4

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Pitcher Derek Tharpe fanned a career-high 12 batters Friday night at Dudy Noble Field, leading No. 19 Tennessee (18-2, 1-0 SEC) to a 9-4 win over No. 21 Mississippi State (12-3, 0-1 SEC) in the SEC opener for both teams. The victory extended the Volunteers' win streak to 14 games.

"This was a good win to start conference play," Tennessee coach Rod Delmonico said. "Derek Tharpe pitched well and gave us a chance to win the game. Offensively, we had 13 hits and did a good job of getting runners home."

Tharpe (5-0) walked just one batter during his 7-2/3 innings of mound duty. The senior left-hander allowed eight hits and three runs (two earned). Scot Drucker worked the Vols out of tight spots in the eighth and ninth innings and finished the contest on the mound.

Tennessee scored twice in its half of the first inning. The teams were never tied and the Vols never trailed in the contest.

Josh Alley walked to open the first inning. After back-to-back singles by Eric King and Kyle Norrid, a sacrifice fly by Chris Kemp and RBI single by Chase Headley scored the runs. MSU answered with an RBI single by Craig Tatum in its half of the first inning. That hit extended the catcher from Hattiesburg's hit streak to a team-best eight games.

The Vols then gradually expanded the lead. Tennessee scored once in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh innings. Tennessee scored twice more in the eighth inning to grab an 8-2 lead. Brian Cleveland had a sacrifice bunt to score the Vols run in the seventh inning. In the eighth inning, a fielding error scored one run while a sacrifice fly by Headley scored the other. State tried to rally one more time.

Pinch hitter Tyler Jones had an RBI single in the MSU eighth inning. Brian LaNinfa had a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning. The Bulldogs could get no closer leaving two men on in each of their final two at-bats. "Their pitcher is a good pitcher," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "He threw well. At the same time, we struck out too many timeS. We also left too many men on base."

The Bulldogs, out-hit 13-11, allowed a season-high in runs and hits and committed a season-high four errors, leading to four unearned Tennessee errors.

Offensively, senior shortstop Steve Gendron paced the Bulldogs with three hits, including a solo home run in the third inning. For the Bulldogs it was their first home run in 10 games and Gendron's second this season.

Joseph Hunter and Tyler Scarbrough also had multiple hits for MSU. Scarbrough had a single and double, while Hunter had two singles.

King, Norrid, Nick Crowe, Eli Iorg and Brian Cleveland each had two hits for Tennessee. King and Iorg each had a single and double, while Norrid, Crowe and Cleveland each had two singles.

Bulldog sophomore starter Jamie Gant (2-2) was chased in the sixth inning after giving up five runs (three earned) on eight hits. Gant struck out one and walked four. Todd Doolittle and Brett Cleveland each threw in relief for the Bulldogs.

MSU and Tennessee resume their weekend series at 2 p.m. Saturday. MSU is expected to start senior right-hander Jeff Lacher (2-1, 2.84 ERA) while Tennessee will counter with freshman right-hander Sean Watson (2-1, 2.92 ERA).

TENNESSEE 9, MISSISSIPPI STATE 4
Tennessee (18-2) 210 011 121 - 9 13 2
MSU (12-3) 101 000 011 - 4 11 4

WP-Tharpe (5-0). LP-Gant (2-2). 2B-King (9); Iorg (5); Scarbrough (3). HR-Gendron (2). T-3:00. A-1,568.


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