Big Inning Propels Birmingham-Southern over MSU

Birmingham-Southern (16-5), ranked 30th in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll, jumped on 24th ranked Mississippi State (13-5) pitchers Eric Ebers and Todd Doolittle for 10 runs in the first three innings to cruise to a 10-1 victory. The win was Birmingham-Southern's third straight victory over Mississippi State and their 16th straight victory this season. Included in the 16 victories are wins over SEC members Georgia and Alabama. MSU has now lost three of their last four.

After a scoreless first inning, Birmingham-Southern took advantage of shaky defensive play by MSU's infield in the second to score three runs.

Conner Robertson walked to lead off the inning. Ryan Griffith followed that with a single to left. Mac Godwin hit a grounder to short that looked like a double play ball but the ball was errored, loading the bases. The next batter, Jared Walker, hit a single, knocking in two runs. After an infield bunt loaded the bases again, Michael Wynder singled to right field, knocking in the third and final run of the inning.

Birmingham-Southern used a big two-out rally in the third inning to knock Mississippi State starting pitcher, Eric Ebers, out of the game.

The inning started harmlessly enough with the first batter getting a single, then being thrown out attempting to steal second base. The second batter struck out. Then, the flood gates opened partly due to a shaky Bulldog defense. After the next two batters singled and doubled to put men at second and third, the next batter hit an infield single to short, scoring the first run of the inning. The next two batters singled and doubled, knocking in three more runs. Mississippi State replaced Ebers with Todd Doolittle. The next batter greeted Doolittle with an infield single - the second infield single of the inning - to put men at first and third. Birmingham-Southern's ninth batter of the inning singled to right center, knocking in the fifth run of the inning. Two more runs scored on errors by the Bulldog infield.

After 2.5 innings, Birmingham-Southern led 10-0.

Mississippi State threaten in their half of the third inning with a leadoff walk to Jeffrey Rea and a single to left field by Steve Gendron. After the next two batters made outs, Joseph Hunter with hit by a pitch to load the bases. Tyler Scarbrough then hit a line drive to center field that was caught for the third out of the inning.

State finally scratched the scoreboard off of Panthers' starting pitcher Wes Letson in the 5th inning when Gendron knocked in Rea with a double to right center.

From that point on, the Bulldog hitters were quiet except for a 9th inning single by pinch-hitter Casey Hamilton.

"I had to work to get the ball down here more than any place that I have pitched. When I finally got it down it felt good," said Letson, a junior left-hander who is the ace of the staff. "From then on, I felt confident with my pitches."

Meanwhile, Bulldogs' pitching, after a shaky first three innings, completely shut down the Panther hitters the rest of the game. Junior right-hander Brett Cleveland threw two innings of one-hit ball while striking out two. True freshman left-hander Andy Wilson, pitching in his first game of the season, also allowed the Panthers' hitters just 1 hit while striking out 3 and walking 1 in 2 innings of relief to close out the game for the Bulldogs.

Wes Letson, now 3-1 on the season, threw seven innings of four-hit baseball while striking out three and walking three to earn the victory for the Panthers. Two of his victories include SEC schools MSU and Alabama. He also started against Georgia, although another Panthers' pitcher earned the victory. His lone loss was a 8-6 road loss to SEC member Ole Miss, currently ranked 5th in the nation.

"Letson is a veteran pitcher," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "They saved their ace for us. This was the guy who knocked down Georgia and Alabama. He is a good one and we knew it was going to be a tough one coming in."

The Panthers, who had 17 hits, were led at the plate by Jared Walker, Matt Barber and Michael Wynder with three hits each.

"They have a veteran team, with a bunch of juniors and seniors," said Polk. "Most of these players played on the team we faced last year. They have some talented players. At the same time, we had a chance to make some plays and didn't do that. You can't let a team have four and five outs per inning."

State's Eric Ebers took the loss to go to 2-1 on the season, allowing 8 runs (7 earned) on 10 hits and 1 walk in 2.2 innings of work.

"Eric Ebers didn't give up a lot of well-hit balls," said Polk. "(He) was a hard-luck guy. We only made three errors but we didn't make some plays (on some balls) that were ruled hits."

MSU junior Todd Doolittle allowed 2 runs (1 earned) on 5 hits in 2.1 innings of relief. He struck out 5 and walked 1.

Mississippi State hitters, who had a total of 5 hits, were led by Rea and Gendron with 2 hits apiece.

MSU was playing without the services of five position players, including two starting position players, third baseman Thomas Berkery and outfielder Jeff Butts. Two other position players, including starting outfielder Jon Mungle and highly touted freshman shortstop Michael Rutledge, are out for the season. The fifth player, Bunky Kateon, is another highly touted freshmen shortstop who was expected to start for the Bulldogs this season until he had rotator cuff surgery. There is a chance that Kateon could possibly play later this season, although it is looking more and more likely that he will redshirt.

Polk explained each player's injury or illness situation.

"Butts couldn't play because he is sick. Berkery is still out (fractured thumb). Kateon now has tendinitis on top of his rotator cuff. We just put a cast on Rutledge, another shortstop. Mungle is out for the season. I don't think I've had this many injuries this early ever. We need to get some people back. Butts, hopefully, will be back (Wednesday). Berkery is one we really need to get back. He gives us that other infielder on the left side. Berkery will be x-rayed Friday but we won't take him to LSU. Hopefully, (he) will be back for (the) Ole Miss (series). We won't take Kateon to LSU. It's very possible that we will redshirt (him)."

MSU concludes a season-opening run of 19 games in Mississippi Wednesday, hosting Samford (3-14) at 6:30 p.m. before heading to LSU for a three-game SEC series in Baton Rouge.

Freshman right-hander Josh Johnson (2-0, 1.62) will start for the Bulldogs with Brad Corley also scheduled to get an inning or two in relief.

BSC (16-5) 037 000 000 - 10 17 1
MSU (13-5) 000 010 000 - 1 5 3
WP-Letson (3-1). LP-Ebers (2-1). 2B-Godwin, Wynder, Gendron. T-2:35. A-1,308 (6,075 paid).

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