Craig Tatum started it off with a two-run shot, his fourth home run of the year,- that barely cleared the right field fence. Brad Corley followed with a solo home run, his third homer this season, that just cleared the 326 foot marker in right field. In Wright's defense, a wind blowing out to right field made what would normally be long flyouts instead of home runs.
While the wind benefited the Bulldogs, MSU head coach Ron Polk was more worried coming into the game that Ole Miss would be the ones that took advantage of it because of their predominately left-handed hitting lineup.
"This is a tough ball park to pitch in when the wind is blowing out to right field, especially when you have seven hitters that swing from the left side," said Polk. "You saw it affect the ball game early in the first inning. Both (home runs) that we hit I thought were just well-hit balls, not home runs."
Although Polk was more worried about Ole Miss' lefthanders hitting the ball out, it was one of their few righthanders that hit their only home run of the game. He hit it in the top of the 2nd inning to help Ole Miss cut into MSU's lead.
Ole Miss DH Brian Pettway, who had hit just one home run coming into the game, led off the inning by hitting a home run about 10 feet over the right field fence. Ole Miss added another run in the inning when the runner on first base rounded the bases after a single to right was errored by Bulldog right-fielder Brad Corley.
The Rebels tied the game in the top of the third on a line drive single by Pettway that drove in Seth Smith.
Mississippi State, which had been quieten by Brae Wright after the two first-inning home runs, finally regained the lead due to 4th inning wildness by the sophomore lefty. Struggling with a tight strikezone by the umpire, Wright walked two, hit two and threw a wild pitch to give up two runs, all without a hit by the Bulldog hitters.
The Bulldogs extended the lead in the bottom of the 5th with a hit by Tatum, a walk to Corley, a passed ball, a sacrifice bunt and an RBI groundout to third by Joseph Hunter.
Ole Miss, proving over the two-game series that they are a dangerous hitting team, cut the Bulldogs lead down to one with a two-run 6th inning. Brian Pettway, who got on base all four times in the game, started the inning off with a walk. After a groundout to first base moved him to second, Gunther knocked him in with a single. Tolbert's sacrifice fly to center field knocked in Gunther for the second and final run of the inning. Ramey ended the inning by getting Babineaux to pop up to first baseman Brad Jones with the bases loaded.
"That (inning) could have been the ball game there," said Polk. "We walked one, then Brad Jones tried to turn a double play a little too quickly but got the out at first. Then, we threw the ball to second on a (pickoff) signal from Tatum to Gendron. Gendron got caught up with the runner and the ball goes into center. Then Gendron makes a play at short and Jeffrey Rea, who has been great all year, stretched a little too early. That could have been our downfall, but, thankfully, we got out of it."
MSU, after avoiding what could have been a big inning for the Rebels in the 6th, wasted little time expanding their lead. Tyler Scarbrough, who started the 6th inning with a single, scored on a fielder's choice by Jeffrey Rea to move MSU back out to a 7-5 lead.
The Rebels could do nothing against Ramsey the final three innings of the game.
MSU was led in hitting by Jeff Butts 3-for-3 day and Craig Tatum, who was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run.
Bulldog starting pitcher Alan Johnson allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and 3 walks in 5.1 innings of work. Ramsey, who allowed no runs on 1 hit while walking and striking out no one in his 3.1 innings of work, earned his 4th save of the year. Ramsey, normally a strikout pitcher, got all of his outs on popups, groundouts and two flyouts, both to center field.
"Early in the season I think everybody kind of got excited because I was striking out a lot of people," said Ramsey. "The better hitters put the ball in play. My job is to keep it out of the air and keep it low or make them pop it up. The defense, especially up the middle, was amazing the last three innings. They played good behind me and we pulled it out."
Ole Miss was led in hitting by Brian Pettway's 3-for-3, 1 home run, 2 RBI day.
Rebel starter Brae Wright, who came into the game with a 5-0 record and a 1.43 ERA, suffered his first loss of the season after allowing 7 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits and 3 walks in 5.1 innings. Anthony Cupps finished the game by allowing no runs on 1 hit and 1 walk, while striking out 2 in 2.2 innings of work.
"I don't think (Wright) has been hit like that in a while," said Tatum. "He has been dominating in the SEC. For us to jump on him early and get it into his head that we weren't going to lay down and die, I think that rattled him a little. Then, he tried to change his mindset by coming in on us and was leaving a lot of balls down the middle."
Ole Miss and Mississippi State will complete the three-game series Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Bulldog senior righthander Jeff Lacher (2-3, 5.33) will face sophomore righthander Stephen Head (3-0, 3.21).
MISSISSIPPI STATE 7, MISSISSIPPI 5
UM 23-4 021 002 000 - 5 10 1
MSU 17-9 300 211 00x - 7 8 3
WP-A. Johnson (1-1). LP-Wright (5-1). Sv-Ramsey (4). HR-B. Pettway (2), Tatum (4), Corley (3). T-2:36. A-4,887 (7556 paid).
COMPLETE POST-GAME QUOTES:
Were you concerned about the wind blowing out to right field today?
"This is a tough ball park to pitch in when the wind is blowing out to right field, especially when you have seven hitters that swing from the left side. You saw it affect the ball game early in the first inning. Both (home runs) that we hit I thought were just well-hit balls, not home runs. It was amazing that (Ole Miss') Pettway, a right-handed hitter, was the only one to hit their home run. They have seven lefthanders and didn't get any balls up. That was a big key to the the ball game. I thought we pitched them well by working changeups away.
"I thought that Brae Wright, after he gave up the two home runs, decided that he was going to pitch inside against righthanders the rest of the game."
You got the timely hitting today that you didn't get yesterday.
"That has been a problem that we have had, not because the kids aren't trying. I think they are probably trying too hard, because they all want to do well for the team. They all want to knock the guy in."
Talk about Ole Miss' 6th inning when they loaded the bases.
"That could have been the ball game there. We walked one, then Brad Jones tried to turn a double play a little too quickly but got the out at first. Then, we threw the ball to second on a signal from Tatum to Gendron. Gendron got caught up with the runner and the ball goes into center. Then Gendron makes a play at short and Jeffrey Rea, who has been great all year, stretched a little too early. That could have been our downfall, but, thankfully, we got out of it."
Saunders Ramsey, even though he only gave up one hit and no runs, wasn't quite as effective as he normally is.
"I thought that they did a real good job of making adjustments to Saunders Ramsey. They cut their stroke down, which is good because it eliminates a well-hit home run."
It appeared the two home runs got your fans into it today.
"We got a couple of big hits in the first that got the fans into it. Ole Miss brought a bunch of fans with them. I think our fans got beat yesterday, along with us. I thought, today, our fans stepped it up a little bit and out-yelled them."
Did you expect that you would be brought in that early?
"Maybe not that early. I really didn't know what to expect this weekend, because they have 7 lefthanders and I usually don't throw to lefthanders. So, I thought they might use Brad Corley in a closing situation but they went to me and we did a good job. Coach Rock had a good plan."
Did it surprise you how effective you were even though they had, like you said, mostly lefthanders?
"Maybe not surprising. Actually, the only hit I gave up was to a righthander, which is kind of frustrating. But, Coach Rock had a good plan. I haven't thrown my changeup much this year and, today, we really used my changeup and got ahead and caused them to get out on their front foot."
Talk about your mindset when you came in with the bases loaded, clinging to a one-run lead.
"What I try to do when I come into a ball game is imagine there is no one on, nobody out and that you have to get everybody out. That was a big situation but if I think about how big it is, it would make me nervous, so I just try to clear everything out of my mind and just focus on that one out."
How does your arm feel after throwing 3+ innings?
"I feel great. I have been in a little pain the past couple of weeks. Today, I felt great, kind of like everything was lifted off of me."
Do you feel like you could throw an inning or two Sunday if you are needed?
"Today I do, but tomorrow I might feel differently."
From past experience, have you been able to throw the day after you have thrown three innings?
"No. I usually don't throw three innings. I'm going to try. I'm going to get in there and do some rehab today and try and get out there tomorrow."
Your confidence must be soaring right now because you shut down a good-hitting Ole Miss team. In fact, you have shut everybody down that you have faced.
"That is what I focus on in the dugout in between innings. I'm having success, but I have to stay modest and stay confident and just take it one inning at a time. If I start thinking about ERAs and strikeouts, I can't do what I did today. If you noticed, I didn't strike a single batter out. That's not what it's all about anyway. It's about throwing pitches where I'm supposed to throw them and getting outs."
Actually, you have a point. You have really become known for not only getting hitters out, but striking out a lot of batters.
"Early in the season I think everybody kind of got excited because I was striking out a lot of people. But, as you can see, I'm not a strikeout pitcher. The better hitters put the ball in play and they are going to put it on the ground. My job is to keep it out of the air and keep it low or make them pop it up. The defense, especially up the middle, was amazing the last three innings. They played good behind me and we pulled it out."
After Brae Wright gave up those first-inning home runs, do you think that may have played a part in his wildness in the fourth inning when it appeared he was trying to be too perfect?
"I don't know if he was trying to be too perfect. I don't think he has been hit like that in a while. He has been dominating in the SEC. For us to jump on him early and get into his head that we weren't going to lay down and die. I think that rattled him a little. Then, he tried to change his mindset by coming in on us and was leaving a lot of balls down the middle."
After you got beat the way you did last night and Ole Miss having such a good season and talking about possibly getting their first series win against for the first time in a long time, did you take that to heart and want to prevent it?
"They don't want to lose to us and we don't want to lose to them. (Mark) Holliman threw good last night. We had to tip our hats to him because he dominated us. Today, it was just a slugfest. They out-hit us, but we made three errors and still won the game. That is a first for us this year."
Ramsey normally gets a lot of strikeouts. He didn't today.
"He kept the ball down. The umpire behind the plate was tight. He was pretty consistent in not giving us anything off the plate the entire game. I think it turned into a slugfest because the pitchers weren't getting any help from him. Saunders came in and kept the ball down, so they couldn't get it into the wind. If you can stay away from their lefthanders, they don't like to go with the pitch."
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.