Coach Polk and Players Talked About Their Wins

Mississippi State head baseball coach Ron Polk and players John Lalor, Thomas Berkery and Joseph Hunter talked about their team's two wins over the University of New Orleans.

Winning pitcher true freshman John Lalor (4.1 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 7 SO, 1 BB, 56 pitches of which 39 were strikes)

You had another good outing.
"I've had a few good outings. I threw strikes and they made the plays behind me. And we won the ballgame."

What did you have going for you today?
"I had all three pitches at different times. I was able to mix it up pretty well."

Is your confidence level improving after every good outing?
"It is, but I get it knocked down every now and then. And they aren't going to let you get a big head around here (laugh)."

Have the coaches talked to you about pitching in the SEC games in addition to pitching midweek?
"They haven't talked to me about it. I just go out there and do the job every opportunity I get."

Catcher Thomas Berkery (5-for-9, 1 2B, 1 HR, 5 RBI)

You are really hitting well right now.
"I finally started seeing the ball well. And hitting is contagious. Seeing Brian (LaNinfa) hit doubles in front of me Joe (Hunter) get on gives me confidence when I get up there."

How much do you think the last four games will help you going into the three-game series against Arkansas?
"Confidence is what it takes. The more you have, the better you will play. Right now, we are on a roll. We took two of three against Vandy. That was a good weekend. And these midweek games are critical to our RPI."

You've gotten really good midweek pitching.
"We really have. We are lucky to have Brooks (Dunn). Brooks could be a weekend starter. (John) Lalor is turning out to be a (possible) weekend starter. They both have real good stuff and throw strikes."

Centerfielder Joseph Hunter (3-for-8, 2 2B, 2 RBI)

You are really hitting the ball well. Have you had a hitting streak like you are currently having?
"I really can't remember. I don't put too much thought in it. I'm just trying to stay consistent."

Last year, you had a few health problems. This year you are healthy.
"Last year, it was always something. This year, I'm trying to stay healthy and be consistent."

How much does it help you as a hitter to have so many guys that are hitting well up and down the lineup?
"Hitting is contagious. Once a person starts hitting, others start hitting. It's all about confidence. When you get up there knowing you are going to hit the guy, it becomes a simple game to play."

How much does it help you to know you have such quality midweek pitching to go along with the good hitting?
"Our pitchers are really coming around. Coach Mac (Russ McNickle) has done a really good job. I think they will continue to do well. Throw strikes and they will do well. I was really impress watching Bunky (Kateon) at shortstop. He reminded me of Manny (Matthew Maniscalco) at shortstop. He is really coming around. Jeffrey Rea is coming back from an injury. He is starting to make plays again. And we are alright in the outfield, too."


Coach Ron Polk

Talk about Josh Johnson's performance.
"They hit two monster home runs against him in one inning. Josh has good innings and bad innings, as do most young pitchers. But he has a bright future ahead of him."

You swung the bats well one through nine.
"The pitching for New Orleans is not SEC type pitching. They know it and we know it. Often times, after you face great pitching with power arms like we did against Vanderbilt, guys start pressing when they face pitchers that don't throw very hard. I thought that New Orleans kept themselve in both ballgames by pitching us pretty effectively."

Arkansas is your next opponent.
"We have had pretty good success against Arkansas. I think we have won 6 out of 7 (the last two years). Of course, this is another year. They are pitching two freshmen in their rotation. Normally in the SEC, two out of three starters are veterans. One of them just knocked down South Carolina pretty good last weekend. They also have some new guys as well as some returning players. They have been playing in front of big, big crowds, so we expect packed houses Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It should be a great environment."

Will you stay with the same pitching rotation?
"We'll for sure throw AJ (Alan Johnson) on Friday and (Todd) Doolittle on Saturday. We are not really sure what we will do on Sunday."

What are your options for Sunday?
"It's (Jon) Crosby again. He pitched so effectively against Vanderbilt."

Lalor pitched well again.
"He did. He is a strike thrower. He doesn't have a great, great arm yet, but I think as he matures he will be a quality one for us."


Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.


(MSU Media Relations game story)

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Joseph Hunter laced a two-run double and Thomas Berkery added a two-run home run in the fifth inning Wednesday powering No. 17 Mississippi State (15-3, 2-1 SEC) to an 8-4 win over the University of New Orleans (4-15). The win nailed down a doubleheader sweep for the Bulldogs, who scored four unearned runs in the seventh inning to take a 5-1 win over UNO in the opener. That contest was the completion of a Tuesday night game suspended by rain in the fourth inning with the game tied at 1-1.

The Bulldogs (15-3, 2-1 SEC) concluded their seven-game home stand with a 6-1 mark and improved to 14-1 at Dudy Noble Field this season. UNO fell to 4-15 with the pair of defeats.

"We had some timely hits today," MSU coach Ron Polk said. "Our pitchers battled and the defense made the plays. We have picked up some nice midweek victories this season. Now, the key is to build on that momentum this weekend."

Berkery, who caught the first game and started at third base in the nightcap, enjoyed a productive day at the plate, going 5-for-7 with five RBI, a double and a home run.

Mississippi State opens SEC road competition this weekend with a three-game series at fifth-ranked Arkansas. The Bulldogs and Razorbacks play at 6:35 p.m. Friday, 3:05 p.m. Saturday and 1:05 p.m. Sunday in Fayetteville. All three games will be carried on the MSU Radio Network and may also be heard at www.mstateathletics.com.

MSU erased a 4-3 deficit in Wednesday's second game by scoring five fifth-inning runs. Hunter delivered a double to center field to give MSU a 5-4 advantage. The MSU center fielder had a single in the third inning to run his career-best hitting streak to 14 games. Hunter, from germantown, Tenn., leads the team with a .433 average.

State matched a season-high with six extra-base hits. In the fifth inning burst, Brian LaNinfa roped an RBI double and Thomas Berkery hit a towering two-run home run into left field. It was the second home run of the year for Berkery.

MSU grabbed a 3-0 lead with three runs in the second inning. Berkery also had an RBI double in that frame. Bunky Keaton added a double, while Jeffrey Rea legged out an RBI triple.

The Privateers answered with four runs in the fourth inning. MSU starter Josh Johnson was touched for a pair of home runs in that frame. Mike Costantine hit a solo shot for the Privateers' first run. After Johnson walked Paul Smythe, T.J. Baxter followed with an RBI double. UNO then claimed a 4-3 lead on a two-run shot by Miles Cabeceiras.

Johnson (2-0) worked his way through the fifth and sixth innings to earn the win. In those six innings, the sophomore from Caledonia, Miss., allowed five hits and four runs (all earned) with three strikeouts and one walk. Starkville freshman Jesse Carver, junior righthander Brett Cleveland and senior relief ace Saunders Ramsey each threw a scoreless inning in relief.

The Bulldogs pounded out 12 hits, three by Berkery who also drove in three runs. Hunter, Rea and Brad Corley each had multiple hits.

Baxter had three of UNO's six hits. Starting pitcher Martin Vergara (0-4) worked into the fifth inning and took the loss for UNO.

"The top four hitters had six hits," Polk said. "Again, we had two big innings. I like the big inning capabilities of this ball club. We have done a good job of putting things together."

Four seventh-inning runs proved the difference in MSU's 5-1 win in the opener. Jeff Butts started things with a one-out walk. Brad Corley reached on a fielder's choice with both he and Butts being safe because of a throwing error. Joseph Hunter drew an intentional walk to load the bases. Brad Jones then drew a walk, forcing in the go-ahead run. Brian LaNinfa followed with a run-scoring infield groundout. And when the Privateers replaced pitcher Daniel Rodriguez with Grant Birely, Birely was greeted by a two-run single by Thomas Berkery to close out the game's scoring.

The Bulldogs drew seven walks and collected six hits but stranded 10 base runners. Hunter had a double in the third inning to extend his hit streak to 13 games. Berkery was the lone MSU player with multiple hits.

John Lalor (2-0) pitched 4 1/3 innings to pick up the win. Lalor allowed three hits and no runs. He struck out seven and walked one, working in relief of starter Brooks Dunn, who threw three innings and matched a career-high with five strikeouts on Tuesday night. Mike Valentine entered with one out in the eighth inning and completed the contest for the Bulldogs.

For UNO, Rodriguez (1-2) worked 3 2/3 innings and took the loss. Rodriguez allowed two hits and all four unearned runs in the deciding seventh inning. He struck out a pair and walked four batters. Michael   Jones started and worked three innings on Tuesday night. Birely finished the contest on the mound for the Privateers.

Mike Costantine had two of UNO's six hits in the contest.

MSU 5, New Orleans 1 (Game 1)

UNO (4-14) 100 000 000 ‹ 1-6-3
MSU (14-3) 001 000 40x ‹ 5-6-1

WP-John Lalor (2-0). LP-Daniel Rodriguez (1-2). 2B-Matt Rogers (1); Joseph Hunter (3). T-2:41. A-1,163 (5,727 paid).

MSU 8, New Orleans 4 (Game 2)

UNO (4-15) 000 400 000 ‹ 4-6-0
MSU (15-3) 030 050 00x - 8-12-1

WP-Josh Johnson (2-0). LP-Martin Vergara (0-4). 2B-T.J. Baxter 2 (2); Joseph Hunter (4), Brian LaNinfa (6), Thomas Berkery (4), Bunky Kateon (5). 3B-Jeffrey Rea (2). HR-Mike Costantine (1), Miles Cabeceiras (1); Thomas Berkery (2). T-2:24. A-1,103 (5,793 paid).


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