Sunday Baseball Game Story and Post-Quotes

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Georgia scored twice on back-to-back sacrifice flies in the 11th inning Sunday afternoon to defeat Mississippi State 8-6 and earn a first-ever SEC series sweep at Dudy Noble Field. It was the 12th straight win overall and 10th straight SEC win for Georgia (33-15, 15-9), which trails SEC East leader Florida by one game. MSU (28-21, 8-16 SEC) fell for the sixth straight time and dropped its seventh straight SEC game.

MSU rallied for a run in the ninth inning to force the extra innings and had opportunities to claim the series finale. However, MSU left runners at first and third base to end the ninth inning. MSU also stranded two runners in its final at-bat of Friday's 7-6 loss to Georgia. The hosts also had a first and third no-out situation in the 10th inning only to see a line drive double play and strikeout snuff out that threat.

In the Georgia 11th inning, lead-off man Josh Smith singled to center field. Justin Holmes followed with a single through the left side of the infield. Marshall Szabo reached as a hit batsman to load the bases. Josh Morris followed with a sacrifice fly to center. Pinch hitter Derek Smith then did the same to right field. Steve Gendron singled to start the MSU 11th inning but that would be all the damage done as Georgia completed the sweep.

MSU grabbed a 4-2 lead with four runs in the third inning. The big blow in that inning was a three-run home run by Craig Tatum to left field. The home run was Tatum's 10th of the year and lifted MSU to a 4-2 lead.

Georgia battled back on top 6-5 with three runs in the seventh inning. Holmes hit a sacrifice fly in that inning. Morris followed with an RBI single and the visitors grabbed the lead at 6-5 when Smith doubled down the left field line.

MSU actually had 16 hits in the contest as it lost for the second time this year when out-hitting an opponent. Gendron finished with four hits, while Joseph Hunter had three hits. The four-hit performance by Gendron allowed the MSU co-captain to become the third MSU player and 18th SEC player to manage 300 career hits. Gendron reached the 300-hit mark when a line drive single slipped through the shortstop in the MSU first inning.

Tatum also had two hits to go along with the three RBI from the home run.

Georgia finished with 13 hits. Smith had four hits, while Holmes and Morris had a pair of hits apiece. Holmes hit his third home run of the weekend and seventh of the season when he launched a solo shot in the Georgia third inning.

Mitchell Boggs (2-1) threw 2-2/3 innings of middle relief for the win. Boggs, who struck out three and scattered six hits, worked around tight spots in the ninth and 10th innings. Josh McLaughlin overcame the Gendron single in the 11th inning to become the third Georgia pitcher on the weekend to earn a season-first save. Paul Lubrano scattered 10 hits and allowed five runs in 7-1/3 innings as the UG starter.

Freshman Jon Crosby (1-1) worked MSU out of a tight spot in the ninth inning and finished the contest to absorb the loss for MSU. Crosby allowed three hits and two runs (both earned) in 2 2/3 innings of work. Crosby struck out two and walked none in his fourth SEC appearance of the season. Todd Doolittle pitched five strong innings in the start for MSU. The former Meridian Community College standout allowed four hits and two runs while striking out three and walking none. Brett Cleveland, Jamie Gant and Brooks Dunn threw in relief for the homestanding Bulldogs.

MSU continues its seven-game homestand and closes out its 2004 non-conference schedule Wednesday night hosting Louisiana Tech Wednesday at 6:30 The Bulldogs then close their home schedule by hosting SEC leader Arkansas next weekend in a three-game set.

Georgia 8, MSU 6 (11 innings)
Georgia 33-15 101 001 300 02 - 8 13 1
MSU 28-21 004 001 001 00 - 6 16 1
WP-Boggs (2-1). LP-Crosby (1-1). SV-McLaughlin (1). HR-Holmes (7); Tatum (10). T-3:38. A-1,414.


POST-GAME QUOTES:

JOSEPH HUNTER

You guys sure appear to be snake bit. An example is the situation in the 10th when MSU had men on 1st and 3rd with no outs and Tyler Jones hits to second base for a double play.
"Coach Polk and I were talking on the way up that when you have men on first and third, if that ball is hit anywhere else but second base, we win the game. It's tough, but there's not much you can do about that."

Does that typify how the season has gone?
"That's how I feel about it. It has been a tough year. We've had a lot of things that have gone the other teams' way. But you can't harp on that."

Having so many close losses on Sunday, do you start scratching your head wondering what you have to do to win?
"There's nothing you can do about it other than go out and play the next day. You can't sit around and harp on it."

You guys have to win 5 of your last 6 games in order to even have a chance to qualify for the SEC Tournament. Does that make it even tougher on you knowing that?
"Well, if you put it that way (laugh). Naw, we aren't feeling any pressure. We just have to go out and play our game."

Todd Doolittle pitched a good game for you guys.
"Doolittle pitched great. I really thought that all of our pitchers pitched well. Gant struggled a little bit, but it's tough to come in in that type situation."

Does knowing you have pitchers like Jon Crosby, who pitched today, and another freshmen pitcher, Josh Johnson, coming back give you hope for next year?
"We have a lot of good pitching coming back. We'll be alright next year. This year, we are taking our lumps. We want to win out but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. We'll just use this year as a learning experience."

How do you think the MSU outfielders have done this year?
"Last year was a learning experience for our outfielders. This year, we know where to throw and when to throw. We know the outfield and know how to make plays on the fence. I think the outfielders have done a good job."

Talk about the diving play you made during the game.
"The wind was blowing a little to left field. Because of that, it hung up just long enough for me to catch it."

Have you ever played on a team that had a season like this one?
"I've always been on good teams. It's tough not been on a winning team in the SEC, but we have a really tough conference this year. (The SEC) is probably five times better than any other conference in the nation."

MSU COACH RON POLK

You sure appear to be snake bit like you said a couple of days ago.
"I think it all started at Auburn on Sunday. Maybe that turned our season around. We had a three-run lead, got the first out, then a chink hit. From that point on, it has just built on us.

"But, Vanderbilt (who swept MSU last weekend) went to Tennessee and won two of three and Georgia has a 10-game SEC winning streak, so they are a good ball club too.

"We had chances to win Friday and today. A freak double play did it to us today. Nowhere else could that have happened except right in front of (baserunner) Joseph Hunter."

There were a lot of called third strikes today.
"I don't really know the answer to that. Maybe it was their pitching or maybe it... We are trying."

Rea has struggled the last two SEC weekends.
"Jeffrey Rea is struggling right now. He is tired but we don't have any maneuverability. That has been one of our problems. We knew Jeffrey wasn't going to be able to play the entire season without a break, but Berkery has to play third. But that is old news."

Jon Crosby pitched well today.
"Jon pitched well. But we made some bad pitches on 0-2 and 1-2 and they took advantage of it. That's three Sundays in a row where the game went right down to the wire. That's a mark of a snake bit club."

If your team gets eliminated from the SEC Tournament next weekend, will you start either of the freshman pitchers like Johnson or Crosby in an SEC game the next weekend?
"It's possible, but we want to play our best against other teams. I don't want the other teams that are trying to compete with those teams that we are playing thinking that we are just throwing people out there."

But Crosby threw pretty good today against Georgia today.
"Crosby is in the (SEC starting) picture. He threw a great game against Birmingham-Southern, too. So, it is a very possible scenario."

GEORGIA COACH DAVID PERNO

Your guys played well today.
"We did all the little things and executed at the times when we needed to. We got all the tough outs and (Mississippi) State just seemed to be a little snake bit."

Talk about State's 10th innning when they hit into that rare double play.
"That is an unusual play. There are not too many times where you would expect to get out of a first and third, nobody out, with the winning run on third base type situation. But that is how things have been going for us. That was probably as good of a thing that could have happened to us. That was a big lift. I thought another lift was when we got to (Jamie) Gant, because he is very good. When they only got 1 inning out of him, you have to say the advantage came our way."

You had another extraordinary play where your second baseman reached his bare hand out and got a ball while running all out with his back to the infield.
"It's been like that during this (winning streak). Guys have been picking each other up. It's been a lot of different guys stepping up. It's been very contagious."

What did you think about MSU freshman pitcher Jon Crosby?
"I know him from when he was at (Georgia) Tech. He is very good and very competitive. He has a good feel for the strikezone. He is going to be a guy that they can hang their hat on the next couple of years.

"He had a really good plan when he came in. I thought that he used a lot of adrenalin that one inning when he got out of the second and third jam. And I think that took a lot out of him and he lost some stuff. That's natural when you come into a situation like that."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher/owner of Gene's Page, the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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