Mississippi State jumped out to a early lead in the first inning with a two-run home run by Steve Gendron.
"Anytime you hit a home run early in the game it is huge and gives you momentum," said Gendron.
The Bulldogs added a run in the third inning with another home run, a solo shot by Craig Tatum, his third homer of the year.
In the top of the fourth, Louisiana-Monroe cut the lead to one with a two-run home run by Ben Jones on a hanging curveball by Johnson.
State added a run in the fourth thanks to an error, balk and passed ball. Brad Corley, after the first batter grounded out, reached base on an error by the Indian shortstop. A balk and flyout moved him over to third base and a passed ball allowed him to score.
Louisiana-Monroe tied the game in the top of the sixth when Ben Jones greeted relief pitcher Brett Cleveland with his second two-run home run of the game.
"It was a 2-0 fastball that I was trying to throw for a strike so that I wouldn't get further behind in the count," said Cleveland. "He had a pretty good swing on it."
In the seventh inning, MSU scored three runs on pitching wildness and poor defensive play by the Indian infield. Craig Tatum, after leading off the inning with a single up the middle, advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Corley moved Tatum to third on a hard groundout to the right side of the infield. After Brad Jones walked to put men on first and third, Joseph Hunter's slowly hit ground ball to the third baseman allowed Tatum to score. Corley also scored on the play when the third baseman, after looking to home plate to see if he had a chance to throw out the runner coming to home, threw the ball away at first base. Hunter wound up at third on the bad throw. The next batter, Brian LaNinfa, batting for Thomas Berkery, walked. An error by the shortstop on a hard hit ball by Daniel Tackett allowed Jones to score the final run of the inning.
MSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th inning on a Craig Tatum sacrifice fly that plated Jeffrey Rea, who led off the inning with a single.
Freshman right-hander Josh Johnson, whose fastball topped out at 90 miles an hour, had another good outing, allowing 2 runs (both earned) on 3 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6 in 5 innings.
"Josh is a good freshman," said Polk. "He does what we need him to do in these midweek ball games, keep us in games. Josh is going to be very good. I think he has a great future here."
Junior right-hander Brett Cleveland, who pitched in the 6th and 7th inning, earned the victory, his first of the season.
Sophomore left-hander Brooks Dunn and junior right-hander Saunders Ramsey shut down the Indian hitters in the 8th and 9th inning. Ramsey has now thrown 20.0 inning, while allowing just 1 run (it was unearned). He has struck out 28, while allowing 5 hits and walking 5. Teams are hitting .076 against him.
MSU, which had 10 hits on the night, was led by Rea, Tatum and Corley, all of whom had two hits apiece.
Mississippi State entertains the 4th ranked Ole Miss Rebels this weekend in a three-game SEC series. Ole Miss is off to one of their fastest starts in their history.
"What is the difference between (Ole Miss) this year and last? Experience," said Polk, giving his opinon as to why Ole Miss is playing so much better this season. "They picked up a couple of hitters that has helped them. Their pitchers are more experienced and have pitched well. I think they are doing so well because of their pitching. They are off to a great start. They are an experienced ballclub and most ballclubs will get better when they become veterans."
MISSISSIPPI STATE 8, UL-MONROE 3
ULM (13-15) 000 202 000 - 4 6 5
MSU (16-8) 201 010 31x - 8 10 0
WP-Cleveland (1-0). LP-Arrant (0-2). 2B-Lamothe. HR-Ben Jones 2 (8), Gendron (3), Tatum (3). T-2:27. A-679.
COMPLETE POST-GAME QUOTES:
You won both of your midweek games after losing both of them last week.
"It is nice to get two midweek victories after losing the two midweek games last week. This gives us some momentum and confidence going into the weekend with Ole Miss coming in."
Your pitchers pitched well tonight for the most part.
"All four pitchers pitched effectively. We struck out a lot of their batters. Last time we played them in Jackson, we punched out a lot of their batters."
Talk about Josh Johnson's outing tonight.
"Josh is a good freshman. He does what we need him to do in these midweek ball games, keep us in games. Josh is going to be very good. He'll get better as he matures. He still makes some location mistakes, but even good pitchers make location mistakes. I think he has a great future here."
Jeffrey Rea continues to play well for you.
"He plays like an old freshman. Anytime a guy starts as many games as he has, it's almost like he is a sophomore. He is a heady player who is a very valuable member of our ballclub."
Thomas Berkery played for the first time in about two and a half weeks.
"It was great to get him back. He will probably play a lot at third base this weekend."
Do you have an update on Bunky Kateon's playing status?
"(His shoulder) is still sore. We have to make a decision on him, although I think it is almost made now. That is a shame because we signed three outstanding infielders and Jeffrey Rea is the only one left. That leaves us with very little depth." (Michael Rutledge is out for the season due to an surgery.-Gene)
You have a big SEC series with Ole Miss this weekend
"We played well against them last year. What is the difference between this year and last? Experience. They picked up a couple of hitters that has helped them. Their pitchers are more experienced and have pitched well. I think they are doing so well because of their pitching. They are off to a great start. They are an experienced ballclub and most ballclubs will get better when they become veterans. That's why I'm anxious for our team to become veterans."
What will be your pitching rotation this weekend?
"It will be Jamie Gant (on Friday), Alan Johnson (on Saturday) and Jeff Lacher (on Sunday)."
Your on-base percentage is really high this year (.465).
"I just try to put the ball on the ground. Sometimes, when they know you are fast, they might boot one trying to rush the play."
Talk about the upcoming Ole Miss series.
"I'm ready to see the rivalry. I'm heard a lot about it. Ole Miss is number 4 in the nation and a tough opponent. But I think we have some good momentum going into the series."
Is it a series that you have circled on your calendar?
"It's a big SEC series. We need to get that first (winning) SEC series under our belt. I thought we played well against LSU."
Did Ole Miss recruit you?
"Yeah, a little bit." (Actually, Ole Miss recruited Jeffrey extremely hard. He was one of their top priorities, but he chose MSU over Ole Miss after officially visiting MSU.-Gene).
It seems like you have adjusted well to leading off.
"It was a big change for me. I've got a few balls falling for me now. Early in the year I wasn't getting much but a few bloop hits."
Your defensive play appears to really be improving almost daily it seems.
"I'm getting a little more confidence. The first of the year I was a little shaky."
You gave MSU an early lead with your second-inning, two-run home run.
"Anytime you hit a home run early in the game it is huge and gives you momentum. Craig (Tatum) hit a bomb, too. We were just swinging the ball well."
After they tied the score, did you still feel comfortable that you would be able to pull out the victory?
"Yeah, I knew we were going to swing the bat well because we have been doing that as of late. I was confident that our pitching staff was going to hold the lead."
Do you think this team is starting to come out of their slump that they seemed to have been in the last two weeks?
"Last week I don't know what was going on. A lot of our hitters weren't thinking at the plate. Even if you aren't thinking, you still have to have some kind of approach at the plate. When Coach Polk talked to us Thursday night at LSU, he said we needed to go up there with a plan. Don't look for a pitch, but have an idea of what you are trying to do. I think that has carried over even in the LSU series. Even though they beat us two out of three, we got 35 hits over three games."
The upcoming series with Ole Miss is a little different than normal. Usually, MSU is the highly ranked school and Ole Miss is the unranked or low ranked school. It's exactly opposite this year.
"The polls in baseball don't make much sense. LSU has lost one game and they are no longer number one in some of the polls. It's great that Ole Miss is playing well right now, but I think we are doing the same thing. They are a good team but we are a good team, too."
What do you know about the Ole Miss rivalry?
"It is an intense rivalry. When I first got here, I didn't know much about it at all. Last year, I started to understand why Mississippi State has the big rivalry with Ole Miss."
Talk about tonight's game.
"Tonight was a good game for us. We came out and got the lead early when Steve (Gendron) hit the home run."
The home run pitch was about the only bad pitch you threw in your two innings.
"It was a 2-0 fastball that I was trying to throw for a strike so that I wouldn't get further behind in the count. He had a pretty good swing on it."
You grew up a MSU fan and know all about the MSU-Ole Miss rivalry. What does it mean to you personally?
"For me, it is big because I have been a State fan my entire life and lived 50 minutes from Oxford. I don't really care for Ole Miss too much. But, as a team, it is just another SEC series, although a little more anxious, I guess you could say. They are a good ballclub and ranked pretty high, but we don't pay too much attention to that."
This is one of those rare seasons when Ole Miss comes into this series ranked higher than Mississippi State. Does that bother you at all?
"Ole Miss is ranked high but we've had their number the past two years. Hopefully, we will have it this year. We know we can be a good ballclub. We just have to get it all going at the same time. If we can do that, then we can beat anybody. We proved that Friday night against LSU."
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports and Mississippi high school sports on the internet. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.