MSU Defeats Vanderbilt, 5-3

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State (12-3, 1-1 SEC) scored three first-inning runs and held on for a 5-3 Southeastern Conference baseball win over No. 17 Vanderbilt (14-4, 1-1 SEC) on a blustery Saturday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field.The victory evened the weekend series at a game apiece, setting up a series-deciding third game Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Jeffrey Rea started things in the first inning for the 18th-ranked Diamond Dogs with a double. Vandy starter Jeff Sues then walked to Jeff Butts, and Brad Corley followed with his sixth double of the year, a two-run shot down the left field line. Later in the inning with the bases loaded Sues struck Ed Easley with a pitch to plate the Bulldogs' third run.

"They had a big first inning," Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin said. "When you get the first game in a series, it gives your team momentum. Then giving up a big first inning can change things around like that."

State starter Todd Doolittle (2-1) held Vandy scoreless for five innings before giving up a pair of runs in the sixth. Warner Jones opened the inning with a single, Brian Hernandez was struck by a pitch, and Tony Mansolino followed with an RBI double to right-center. A second run scored later on Dominic De La Osa's sacrifice fly.

MSU answered with two runs in the bottom of the sixth to give Doolittle a 5-2 cushion. Joseph Hunter extended his career-best and team-leading hitting streak to 11 games with an infield single to open the inning. Brian LaNinfa followed with a double to right, though Hunter was pegged at the plate on a perfect relay throw by second baseman Warner Jones. Thomas Berkery delivered a double to score LaNinfa and then raced home on Bunky Kateon's single to right.

After retiring the first two batters he faced in the seventh, Doolittle walked a batter and gave up an infield single to Warner. State then turned to its bullpen and sophomore righty Mike Valentine. Valentine gave up an RBI single to Mike Baxter but worked out of the inning and went on to finish the game and earn his second win of the year.

"This was a really big game for us," Doolittle said. "When the first game of the series (a 10-3 loss) does not go the way you want it to, it makes the next day even bigger. Defensively, we made the plays today, and we found a way to get enough runs to win."

Doolittle (2-1) worked a season-long 6.2 innings to pick up the win. The senior righthander from Meridian, Miss., allowed six hits and three runs (all earned). Doolittle struck out four and walked three. Valentine scattered three hits and recorded three strikeouts, two of them inning-ending whiffs with runners in scoring position.

Sues (2-2) worked into the sixth inning and took the loss for Vanderbilt. The junior right-hander allowed four hits and four runs (all earned). He struck out three and walked four. Michael Wagner worked the final 2.2 innings for the Commodores.

"We had some timely hitting in the game," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "We have had stretches this year where the timely hitting was real good. Todd competed and we played defense. Fortunately, we put some hits together at the right time."

Vanderbilt out-hit MSU 9-6, led by Jones' three hits. Mansolino and Alex Feinberg each had two hits for Vanderbilt.

No Bulldog player had more than one hit. The Bulldogs actually had all of their hits in the first and sixth innings, and four of those six hits went for doubles.

In Sunday's series finale, MSU is slated to give sophomore right-hander Jon Crosby (2-0, 2.89) his first career SEC start. Junior right-hander Matt Buschmann (2-1, 0.76) will draw starting mound duties for Vanderbilt.

MSU 5, Vanderbilt 3

Vanderbilt (14-4, 1-1 SEC) 000 002 100 - 3-9-0
MSU (12-3, 1-1 SEC) 300 002 00x - 5-6-1

WP-Todd Doolittle (2-1). LP-Jeff Sues (2-2). Sv-Mike Valentine (2). 2B-Warner Jones (5), Tony Mansolino (3); Jeffrey Rea (1), Brad Corley (6), Brian LaNinfa (4), Thomas Berkery (2). 3B-Alex Feinberg (1). T-2:28. A-1,606.

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