MSU Completes Sweep of USM

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - Mississippi State continued to hit the longball Wednesday night at Pete Taylor Park.<P> Brad Corley hit a three-run home run and Thomas Berkery added a solo shot as the Bulldogs defeated Southern Mississippi 9-7.

The victory allowed the Bulldogs to complete a two-game sweep of their in-state rivals before a Pete Taylor Park record crowd of 4,760.

MSU improved to 19-10. The 11th-ranked Golden Eagles lost back-to-back games for the first time this season to fall to 24-6.

In Tuesday's series opener, Brad Jones hit three home runs to highlight the Bulldogs' come-from-behind 18-9 victory. The two victories here meant that State swept a two-game series at Southern Miss for the first time since the 1991 season.

"We knew it wasn't going to be easy, playing a fine quality Southern Miss team," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "Most of the time recently in this series, we have been splitting. We were able to get on their midweek pitching and they got on some of ours."

The Bulldogs hit throughout the lineup in the midweek series. MSU had 35 hits in the two games. After all nine starters each had at least one hit Tuesday night, eight of MSU's nine starters had at least one hit in Wednesday's contest. The Bulldogs have now hit 23 home runs on the season.

In a contrast from Tuesday's series opener, the Bulldogs led througout Wendesday night.

MSU scored twice in the second inning. Joseph Hunter had a sacrifice fly and Jeffrey Rea hit an RBI double in that at-bat.

Carlos Velasquez answered in the Southern Miss second inning by slamming his fifth home run of the season.

For MSU, Brad Corley came right back and slapped his team-best fifth home run of the season. Corley's towering three-run blast to right field upped the MSU lead to 5-1.

"We needed a lift and hopefully winning these two games will do that for this team," Corley said. "This is a hitter's park and fortunately I was able to find a pitch I could drive. We knew after last night we needed to score as many runs as we could."

The Bulldogs actually had five hits in the third inning. Craig Tatum walked and Jones singled prior to Corley's home run.

After the home run, Southern Miss starting pitcher Noah Tritz was replaced by Josh Grant.

Grant struggled early as Brian LaNinfa and Jeff Butts greeted the former Hattiesburg High standout with back-to-back singles. After a strikeout, Hunter singled to center field to load the bases. A neatly turned double play ball allowed the Eagles to escape the third inning jam.

The hosts then rallied with two runs in the fourth inning and another score in the fifth inning.

Velasquez had the big bat again for the Golden Eagles as he slapped a two-run single in the fourth inning. In the fifth inning, Matt Sheperd hit a leadoff double and scored on a Jarret Hoffpauir sacrifice fly.

Meanwhile, Grant settled into a groove. The Ole Miss transfer allowed one hit in 5 1/3 innings of work. He retired 10 of 11 batters at one point before Berkery's first home run of the year ended his mound duty with one out in the eighth inning.

Leading 6-4, the Bulldogs then survived a wild ninth inning where each team scored three runs.

In the MSU ninth inning, Jones had an RBI single, LaNinfa had an RBI double and Berkery had an RBI single.

The ninth inning offense would prove necessary as the Golden Eagles had one more rally.

Saunders Ramsey worked the ninth inning for MSU. The former Starkville Academy standout saw his scoreless innings streak stop at 21 2/3 innings. Jason Lowery began the Southern Miss ninth inning with a single. After a strikeout, Kevin Coker followed with an RBI double down the left field line. Ramsey then hit Beau Griffin and walked Shepherd to load the bases.

An infield error brought the Eagles to within three. Ramsey then closed the door for good by getting a sacrifice fly by Hoffpauir and a strikeout of Ryan Frith to end the contest.

The Bulldogs finished with 15 hits. Jones, Rea, Gendron, Corley, LaNinfa, Berkery and Butts each had multiple hits.

"Hitting is contagious," Polk said. "We really did a lot of nice things at the plate in each of these games. I would love to play Southern Miss in a weekend series where we would see their best pitching and they would see ours. Unfortunately, it doen't quite work out that way."

Southern Miss finished with eight hits. Velasquez and Lowery were the only multiple hitters for the Golden Eagles.

Josh Johnson (3-1) worked the first five innings to pick up the win. Johnson allowed six hits and four runs (all earned). The former Caledonia standout struck out six and walked one. Brooks Dunn threw three innings of shutout relief, prior to Ramsey working the ninth inning.

Tritz (0-1) took the loss for the Golden Eagles. Grant was followed to the mound by Adam Smith in the eighth inning and Austin Tubb in the ninth inning.

MSU 9, USM 7

MSU (19-10) 023 000 013 - 9 15 2
Southern Miss (24-6) 010 210 003 - 7 8 1

WP-Johnson (3-1). LP-Tritz (0-1). 2B-Rea (8); LaNinfa (2); Shepherd (16); Coker (3). HR-Corley (5); Berkery (1); Velasquez (5). T-2:33. A-4,760.

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