Doolittle Leads MSU to Sweep of Alabama

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Junior right-hander Todd Doolittle limited Alabama to one run and his Mississippi State teammates came up with the clutch hits Sunday afternoon, leading the Bulldogs to a 4-1 win and a sweep of their regular season-ending SEC series with the Crimson Tide. The sweep was the first of the year for State (34-22, 13-17 SEC) and its first over Alabama since taking three games in Tuscaloosa in 1994. It also snapped a run of five costly losses in SEC series-ending games.

Doolittle (3-2) was at his season best, scattering nine hits and allowing but one run while pitching into the ninth inning, his longest mound stint of the year. The Meridian, Miss., product was touched for a run in the second inning but held Alabama scoreless the rest of the way.

Ryan Beagle opened the second with a triple to right and scored when Emeel Salem followed with a base hit to left. He allowed two hits and walked one batter over the next five innings, worked out of a two-out, two-hit jam in the eighth with his season-high matching eighth strikeout, and left the game after giving up a lead-off single to Beagle in the ninth.

Sophomore Brooks Dunn successfully closed out the game, retiring the three batters he faced; two on strikeouts, to earn his first career save.

State had scoring opportunities thwarted by a pair of early-game double plays before breaking through in the fifth inning. Thomas Berkery opened the inning when Alabama starting pitcher Jeffrey Norris misplayed his ground ball. Joseph Hunter walked and both runners advanced on the first of two successful sacrifice bunts on the afternoon by Jeff Butts. Jeffrey Rea's grounder to first base was booted, allowing Berkery to cross the plate with the tying run, and Brad Corley delivered a two-out single to right that put MSU on top 2-1. That hit extended Corley's hit streak to 11 games.

Two innings later Hunter reached on an infield single, advanced on another sacrifice bunt by Butts, and raced home on Steve Gendron's shot up the middle of the infield. It was the second hit of the day for Gendron, raising his career hits total to 313, 10th-best among the SEC's all-time career hits leaders. Gendron then scored the game's final run on Corley's second hit of the day, a two-out double into the right field corner. Seth Johnson replaced Norris and retired the four batters he faced, while Taylor Tankersley pitched an inning of scoreless relief in the ninth for Bama.

Rea, Gendron and Corley had two hits each for MSU while Beagle had a game-high three hits and Zac Welch and Emeel Salem had two safeties each for Alabama. Rea finished the weekend with eight hits in 13 at-bats (.615) and a team-best five RBI.

The Bulldogs played error-free defense for the second time in three games and committed but one error on the weekend.

The weekend sweep improved the Bulldogs' standing in the rugged Southeastern Conference. State pulled ahead of SEC West rival Auburn (32-24, 12-18 SEC) into ninth place in the overall league standings. MSU, which came up just short in its bid for an 18th consecutive SEC Tournament berth, now awaits the NCAA's postseason selection show on Memorial Day with hopes of receiving a regional bid.

MISSISSIPPI STATE 4, ALABAMA 1
MSU 000 020 200 - 4-10-0
ALA 010 000 000 - 1-9-2
WP - Todd Doolittle (3-2). LP - Jeffrey Norris (1-2). T - 2:35. ATT - 4,439 (paid).


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