"With a couple of breaks, we had a chance to win two games, and that would have been a good weekend," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "As it is, we have our backs against the wall. But we played a really good game today."
Junior right-hander Alan Johnson pitched 8-1/3 innings for the Bulldogs, the longest start for an MSU pitcher this season. Johnson allowed five hits and one run, while striking out five and walking none. Starkville native Saunders Ramsey (3-0) finished the contest, picking up the win with 1-2/3 innings of shutout relief.
"I really didn't feel any added pressure today," Johnson said. "I felt real relaxed out there today. I just tried to throw strikes and tried to give my team a chance to win the game."
The Bulldogs did just that, capturing a fast-moving, defensive-dominated contest by scoring in the 10th inning. Brandon Crowe (0-1) relieved UT starter Ben Riley to start the MSU 10th inning. Shortstop Daniel Tackett, making his first career start, greeted Crowe with a single to left field. Jeff Butts followed with a double to left center. An intentional walk to Jeffrey Rea loaded the bases and Scot Drucker came on to replace Crowe on the mound. Gendron then worked the count full before drawing the game-ending walk.
"We really needed a win," Butts said. "We didn't face this like a must-win. However, we needed to take a game in the weekend series. We made the plays today and the pitching was outstanding. (Johnson) gave us a chance to win the game."
The Bulldogs actually had two opportunities.
In the MSU ninth inning, Joseph Hunter started a rally with a one-out single to center. Tyler Scarbrough followed with a single to right center, sending Hunter to third base. The rally ended when Hunter attempted to score from third base on a Brad Jones fly ball to left field. UT's Eli Iorg made the perfect throw to catcher Nick Crowe, retiring Hunter at the plate to end the inning.
"We had a chance in the ninth inning and actually Tennessee had a chance in the 10th inning," Polk said. "Credit our pitchers for pitching a great game."
Ramsey ran his scoreless streak to 16 innings with his perfect 1-2/3 innings of work. However, that streak appeared in jeopardy in the Tennessee half of the 10th inning.
First baseman Chris Kemp started things with a bloop double just inside the left field line. Chase Headley followed with a hit, giving Tennessee runners on the corners. Ramsey then battled back with a strikeout, a failed squeeze bunt attempt groundout and fly out to snuff that threat.
Johnson retired the first 10 UT batters he faced before Eric King raced to third on a fly ball that got past a diving Joseph Hunter in center field. King scored on a Kyle Norrid sacrifice fly.
MSU answered in the sixth inning with Jeffrey Rea's first career home run, a towering shot to lead off the sixth.
For Tennessee, Riley worked nine innings of eight-hit baseball. The senior left-hander struck out six and walked one.
The Bulldogs out-hit the Volunteers, 10-7.
Butts paced MSU with a double, a single and a walk, while Craig Tatum ran his hit streak to 10 straight games with a fourth inning single. Eric King and Headley each had a pair of hits for the Vols.
MSU winds up a run of 19 straight in-state games in the midweek, hosting Birmingham-Southern Tuesday and Samford Wednesday in 6:30 p.m. contests. The Bulldogs then travel to Baton Rouge, La., Mar. 26-28 to test Louisiana State in a three-game weekend series.
MISSISSIPPI STATE 2, TENNESSEE 1
UT 000 100 000 0 1-7-0
MSU 000 001 000 1 2-10-1
WP - Saunders Ramsey (3-0). LP -Brandon Crowe (0-1). HR - Jeffrey Rea (1). T - 2:27. ATT - 1477 (5876 (paid).