After scoring just 10 runs in their last five games, all in what is normally the friendly confines of Dudy Noble Field in Starkville, Mississippi, the Bulldog bats came alive against LSU ace Justin Meier, pounding him for 7 runs in 4+ innings.
"The LSU coaches remarked that that was probably as well hit as Justin Meier had been the last two years," said Polk. "Meier is their ace, no question about it. Look at his numbers; they are very good."
The Bulldogs jumped on Meier for four runs in the third inning. After Jeffrey Rea singled to start the inning, Steve Gendron hit a ball back to the mound but on the throw to second the ball was dropped to put two on with no outs. Craig Tatum moved the runners to second and third on a groundout to short. After Brad Jones struck out, Brad Corley singled to knock in two runs. Joseph Hunter singled and moved over to second base on a passed ball. With men on second and third, Brian LaNinfa, after fouling off several pitches with two strikes on him, singled sharply up the middle to knock in the third and fourth runs of the inning.
In the top of the 4th inning, Rea and Gendron hit back to back doubles to plate MSU's 5th run of the game.
"I thought that Jeffrey Rea did a good job today of putting the ball in play and staying inside balls," said Polk.
State extended their lead in the top of the 5th. Corley singled to start the inning. Hunter followed with a double, putting men on 2nd and 3rd. LaNinfa hit a sharp single to left field, knocking in both runners to give MSU a comfortable 7-0 cushion. The Bulldogs did no more damage after the Tigers replaced Meier with reliever Jordan Faircloth.
LSU finally got on the board in the bottom of the fifth when J.C. Holt hit a two-run home run into the left field bleachers to make the score 7-2.
The Tigers added a single run in the bottom of the sixth and threaten to add more, but MSU reliever Saunders Ramsey came in to shut the door in the inning.
Both relievers, Faircloth and Ramsey, were dominant over the course of the game, keeping both teams scoreless the rest of the way.
"(That) Faircloth kid looks like a closer and they brought him in when the game was kind of out of control," said Polk. "That kind of makes you wonder how good the rest of their pitchers are."
Bulldog hitters, after getting just 7 hits in their last two games, had 14 hits on the night. LaNinfa and Corley led MSU's hitters with 3 hits apiece. LaNinfa broke out of a slump that had seen him go hitless in his last 15 at-bats. Corley, although not slumping as badly, had just 2 hits in his last 19 at-bats.
"It was great to see Brad Corley take some good cuts because he has really been struggling," said Polk. "I thought that he took some good cuts in practice (Thursday) night and in (batting practice) today. He is a guy that makes this ballclub go."
Gant (3-2) earned his third victory of the season, going 5.2 innings while allowing three runs on five hits. He struck out 4 and walked 3. Ramsey picked up his third save, allowing no runs on one hit, while striking out four in 3.1 innings of relief. Ramsey, who has now thrown 19.1 inning of scoreless ball this season, set down 10 of the 13 batters he faced in the game.
"I thought that Jamie Gant competed out there," said Polk. "He showed the breaking ball enough, showed the changeup enough and threw the ball by some guys. And he had a tough strikezone to work with. The umpire had a very tight strikezone. It is always tough when you have to throw pitches down the middle of the plate sometimes to get a called strike. He is a good umpire but he is definitely a hitters' umpire."
Meier suffered his first loss of the season to go to 4-1. He had his shortest outing of the season, going 4+ innings, allowing 7 runs (3 earned) on 11 hits, 2 walks and striking out 4. Faircloth held the Bulldog hitters scoreless while giving them 3 hits in 5 innings of work.
"We faced two good pitchers tonight in Meier and Faircloth," said Polk. "The Faircloth kid is nasty. He is (a) Saunders Ramsey (type pitcher)."
LSU will try to even the series when it sends freshman Dirks (4-0, 1.48) to the mound on Saturday at 2 p.m. MSU will counter with senior right-hander Jeff Lacher (2-2, 3.86). The series concludes Sunday at 1 p.m.
"It's going to be a tough one (Saturday) and Sunay, but at least we now have a chance to come out and win this series," said Polk. "We are going to have to play our butts off tomorrow. Jeff Lacher's going to have to pitch great facing (Dirks) tomorrow."
MSU 7, LSU 3
MSU (14-6, 2-2 SEC) 004 120 000 - 7 14 1
LSU (19-4, 2-2 SEC) 000 021 000 - 3 6 1
WP-Gant (3-2). LP-Meier (4-1). SV - Ramsey (3). E -- Butts, Horwath. DP -- MSU 1, LSU 5 LOB -- MSU 6, LSU 8 2B -- Rea (5), Gendron (8), Tatum (4), Hunter (3), Gill (5). HR -- Holt (3). SF -- Stavinoha (2). CS -- Rea 2. Time -- 2:42 Att. -- 8,521 (paid), 6,388 (actual).
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.