Jones' Three Home Runs Help MSU Roll Over USM

HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Sophomore first baseman Brad Jones became the first Mississippi State player to hit three home runs in one game in 14 season as the Bulldogs rolled past Southern Mississippi 18-9 in college baseball action Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs matched season-high totals with 18 runs scored and 20 hits. In the process, the Bulldogs made a miraculous comeback,erasing an 8-0 first inning deficit.

The victory lifted MSU to 18-10 while No. 11 Southern Miss fell to 24-5. The Golden Eagles lost at home for only the third time this season, falling before a Pete Taylor Park crowd of 4,373.

Jones hit a solo home run in the MSU second inning. He followed that with two-run blasts in the seventh and eighth innings. Those home runs came less than two weeks after Jones hit his first career longball in a Southeastern Conference series against LSU.

"I felt like I was in a zone," Jones said. "This is a hitter's park and I fortunately saw some good pitches. As a team, we swung the bats well. This is the kind of game that will, hopefully, give us a lot of confidence for the rest of the season."

The three home runs hit by Jones marked the first time a Bulldog had done that in a game since current MSU assistant coach and hitting instructor Tommy Raffo accomplished the same feat in a 1990 game against Delta State.

The Golden Eagles roughed up MSU starter Eric Ebers for eight runs on six hits in the first inning. Of the eight runs, seven were unearned thanks to a two-out fielding error which extended the inning.

In the Southern Miss first inning, Matt Shepherd, Marc Maddox and Jarrett Hoffpauir started things with back-to-back-to-back hits. After the error, Beau Griffin and Carlos Velasquez followed with RBI singles. A two-run single by Shepherd chased Ebers and closed the scoring in the monster inning.

MSU battled back with three runs in the second and fourth innings. The Bulldogs grabbed the lead with three runs in the fifth inning.

Jones started things with his first home run in the second inning. Joseph Hunter also began his four-hit night with an RBI double in that inning. Jeffrey Rea followed with an RBI single.

"Things started coming together for us," Hunter said. "We've left a lot of men on base this year. It seemed like this time we were always getting a chance to bat with runners on. Fortunately, we were able to pick Eric up. We had some quality at-bats and beat a good team."

In the MSU fourth inning, Hunter again had an RBI single, while Steve Gendron drove in a pair with a base hit.

The fourth inning would be it for Southern Miss starter Daniel Best. Mike Cashion entered in relief and struggled to find the strike zone.

Cashion walked three straight batters to start the MSU fifth inning. Jeff Butts and Hunter greeted USM reliever John Nicholas with back-to-back RBI singles. Hunter's hit placed the Bulldogs in the lead for good at 9-8.

"Our pitching was horrible," Southern Miss coach Corky Palmer said. "When you score eight runs in the first inning at home, you should be able to win the game."

That offensive rally would be more than enough for Todd Doolittle, who again sparkled in relief for MSU. The former Meridian CC standout entered with two outs in the first inning and worked all the way to the ninth inning. In his longest stint of the year, Doolittle (2-0) faced 29 batters in a 7 1/3 innings of work. The junior right-hander allowed one hit and struck out six, while walking four.

Brad Corley, making his fifth appearance of the season, was touched for an unearned runs thanks to back-to-back fielding errors in the MSU ninth inning.

"Todd (Doolittle) was the story of the game," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "In the first inning, if we make a play, they only score one run. Then maybe it turns out to be a 2-1 game. We haven't had a lot of luck this year. However, the ball carries well here and we were able to get some solid hits."

MSU would remove all doubt from the contest with four runs in the seventh inning and five more scores in the eighth inning.

In the seventh inning, Tatum had a two-run single and Jones followed a batter later with a two-run home run.

An inning later, the Bulldogs took advantage of more wildness from the USM staff. Reliever Ray Antonelli walked two and hit one in the MSU eighth inning. That wildness was followed by a two-run single by Brad Corley and another two-run home run by Jones.

Corley's eighth-inning meant that every Bulldog in the starting lineup finished the game with at least one hit. Hunter and Jones each had four hits. Rea had three hits, while Gendron, Tatum and Brian LaNinfa also finished with multiple hits.

"The offensive support was great," Doolittle said. "I didn't feel any pressure when I came in because we were so far behind. At the same time, it was so early in the game, we just had to make some plays and get the confidence back."

Southern Miss finished with eight hits. Shepherd and Velasquez each had multiple hits for the Golden Eagles. Dane Reiter, the final of six USM pitchers, threw a perfect ninth inning. Cashion (1-1) did not record an out in his limited stint and took the loss.

MSU and Southern Miss complete their two-game midweek set at 6:30 p.m. tonight. The Bulldogs are scheduled to start true freshman Josh Johnson (2-1, 3.58 ERA). The Southern Miss starter has not been determined.

MISSISSIPPI STATE 18, USM 9
MSU (18-10) 030 330 450 - 18 20 4
USM (24-5) 800 000 001 - 9 8 1

WP-Dootlittle (2-0). LP-Cashion (1-1). 2B-LaNinfa (1); Hunter (4); Shepherd 2 (15). HR-B. Jones-3 (4). T-2:50. A-4,373.


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