MSU Baseball Game Story and Quotes

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Justin Holmes homered for the second time in as many days Saturday afternoon as the Georgia Bulldogs topped Mississippi State 8-4 to clinch the three-game weekend series at Dudy Noble Field.

Georgia (32-15, 14-9 SEC) matched a school-record with their 11th straight win, ninth straight in league play. With the win, they remain one full game behind Florida for the Eastern Division lead. MSU (28-20, 8-15 SEC) dropped its fifth straight game and its sixth straight conference game.

"This was such a big win for us," Georgia coach Dave Perno said. "Our guys are playing with a lot of confidence. When you get down on the road early, it takes that confidence to came back and win the game."

MSU actually built the early lead Saturday by scoring three runs in the first inning. Jeffrey Rea began the game with the first of his three hits. After a groundout, Brad Corley was hit by a pitch and Brad Jones singled. Jones hit scored Rea. Back-to-back RBI singles by Tyler Scarbrough and Craig Tatum helped MSU push the lead to 3-0.

Georgia began its comeback when Holmes slapped a two-run home run to left field in the third inning. The visiting Bulldogs took the lead for good with a pair of unearned runs in the fifth inning.

MSU made a pair of errors in the fifth inning. An inning later, the defensive bug bit again. Georgia actually had six outs to work with thanks to three MSU errors in the sixth inning. Despite the misplays, Georgia only scored once to inch the lead to 5-3.

The homestanding Bulldogs closed within 5-4 on a Steve Gendron sacrifice fly in the seventh inning.

"We kept battling but it seems like our backs are always against the wall," MSU starting pitcher Jeff Lacher said. "We had a big first inning and that should have set the tone for the game."

Georgia then removed all doubt with a pair of runs in the eighth inning and a single score in the ninth inning.

MSU finished with nine hits. Besides three hits by Rea, Scarbrough also had multiple hits with a pair of singles.

Georgia finished with 11 hits. Clint Sammons had three. Holmes, Marshall Szabo and Josh Morris each had two hits. Morris also hit his 15th home run of the season - a solo shot in the ninth inning.

"Georgia has a nice team and they are playing really well right now," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "You really can't give quality teams extra outs to work with."

Jeff Lacher (3-6) started and worked into the fifth inning. The defensive collapse helped force his exit. Saunders Ramsey got the final out in the fifth inning and finished the contest for MSU. Lacher allowed six hits and four runs (two earned) with two walks and a strikeout. Georgia finished with five earned runs thanks to a season-high six errors by MSU.

Michael Hyle (5-1) worked into the sixth inning to pick up the win. Hyle allowed eight hits and three runs (all earned) in 5 2/3 innings. He allowed two walks and struck out two. Bo Lanier picked up his first save by allowing one hit and one run (earned) the rest of the way.

The teams conclude their three-game series Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Georgia 8, Mississippi State 4
Georgia (32-15) 002 021 021 - 8 11 0
MSU (28-20) 300 000 100 - 4 9 6
WP-Hyle (5-1). LP-Lacher (3-6). Sv-Lanier (1). HR-Holmes (6), Morris (15). T-2:29. A-2,638.



Talk about the game.
"The players are trying too hard. I thought that we had good at-bats in the first inning but didn't expand the lead. But I think the key to the ballgame was the two-out walk in the third and Holmes gets the home run.

"I thought that Lacher threw well and got ahead of the count but he couldn't put people away. We are having a tough time striking SEC hitters out. When that happens, your defense becomes susceptible because there is a lot more action.

"Georgia has an experienced pitching staff and you can see that. I thought that Lanier threw well. We'll face another veteran in Lubrano Sunday."

Are you running out of things you can say to get this thing turned around?
"Yeah, I have had to resort to more things this year in regard to keeping their spirits up. We are just having a tough time fielding, hitting and pitching well enough. If we just had a great pitching team then we could survive having average fielding and hitting."


Have you been through something like Coach Polk's team is going through where they have so many young guys and having to play so many guys out of position?
"We went through it earlier this year. It seemed like we just couldn't put everything together at once. It seemed like when things started going bad, we didn't have the confidence to push through it. We were 5 and 9 at one time. Now, we have a lot of confidence and great pitching. Our pitching is keeping us in every game."

How did that happen?
"We got our rotation settled. This is Ruthven's third week to throw on Friday night. Paul Lubrano, our Sunday guy now, had been throwing on Friday night. Michael Hyle was shut down for a couple of weeks, but he got healthy for LSU. We also got the order of our lineup right. Our shortstop is probably playing as well as any shortstop in the country and that is huge. We've fed off of that."

What do you think is causing MSU's problems?
"They have had a lot of injuries. That is one thing you never wish for any program. They lost their really good freshmen infielders, Bunky Kateon and Michael Rutledge. And they lost (Jon) Mungle. And you lose (Paul) Maholm and (Jonathan) Papelbon (to the draft) and you are going to have some growing pains. I think what magnifies it even more is everybody in the league is so good this year."


It seemed like the defense was trying so hard, they had trouble making all the plays behind you.
"It's always hard to pitch when your defense isn't making plays behind you, but that's part of the game because errors are going to happen. But it's hard for them to play defense when I am 0-2 and 1-2 on guys and they are hitting the next pitch hard. I just didn't make the pitches and the defense made a few errors."

What has been the reaction of the guys to this slump?
"A lot of the younger guys are feeling bad for (Tyler) Scarbrough, (Steve) Gendron and me because our season is winding down and it is going to be pretty difficult to make the (SEC) tournament. They are upset for us. But, I'm going to continue trying to win games and get them ready for next year."

Is it time to forget about making the SEC Tournament and just try to have fun out there again?
"It is still fun and I love getting out there and competing. But it is frustrating because we want to have fun but we want to win the games. It is hard to lose. We have been playing this game all of our lives and losses are tough."

Are you running out of things you can do to stop this slump?
"All we can do now is win. We have to try and get to 14 wins in the conference. We lose tomorrow, then that means we have to sweep two weeks in a row. That will be tough because we haven't done it all year."

I know sometimes people think Coach Polk is using the youth of this team as an excuse, but this team really is a young team, isn't it?
"Definitely. All we are losing is Steve, Tyler and myself. 31 of the 41 players are freshmen or sophomores. The good thing about it, despite not having a good year this year, next year and the year after these freshmen and sophomores will become juniors and seniors. Like Coach Polk said, there are a lot of veteran ball clubs in the SEC this year, but next year and the year after it will be a veteran Mississippi State ball club. And they will come out and put some wins on the board for Mississippi State."

What do you think about true freshman pitcher Josh Johnson?
"Josh Johnson has the best record on the ball club. When I was a true freshman, I redshirted. He is way ahead of where I was as a freshman. He has good stuff and is a good competitor. The sky is the limit for him."


As a senior, can you imagine your last year might end up without going to the SEC Tournament?
"It is tough, especially for Jeff, Steve and me. This is going to be my last year and two weeks from now may be my last time to play baseball."

Friday, you guys struck out 11 times. Today, you struck out just 3. Was there something the team did different hitting-wise?
"Striking out looking cost us a few times (Friday). We definitely swung the bat better today. We seemed to find more holes today, especially in the first inning. However, from then on, we couldn't put anything else together. We didn't really move runners over and get guys in scoring position."

Have you ever been through a season-long slump like this before?
"I have. I have never played in a playoff in high school or in the College World Series while at Meridian Community College. But it's just a game. There is more to life than just this."

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