Bowden Shuts Down Dogs For 6-1 Wednesday Win

The Bulldogs are preparing for their most crucial weekend of the conference campaign this weekend, at least in postseason tournament terms, when they travel to Mississippi. Safe to say, this was not how they needed to tune-up for a serious SEC series.

Mississippi State's run of rally-victories ended Wednesday night as visiting Southern Mississippi claimed a 6-1 victory at Dudy Noble Field. With righthander Barry Bowden tossing six shutout innings and the Eagle offense taking advantage of frequent Bulldog miscues USM built a lead State could not erase and scored a split of the midweek series. The Bulldogs had claimed a 5-4 win Tuesday, coming back from 4-0 down.

Not this time, as the Eagles improved to 29-12 while the Bulldogs are 28-12 after taking their first loss against a non-SEC opponent since March 12 at Arizona, snapping a ten-win streak. Only 2,315 watched the 100th meeting of the programs since 1947, with State's all-time lead now 69-31.

Bowden turned in seven complete innings, matching his career-longest outing, and throttled Bulldog bats for almost the entire stint. He was tagged for just five base hits and only allowed a couple of safeties in the bottom of his final frame, when the Bulldogs managed their sole score. Bowden (3-3) struck out five with five walks.

"Bowden is one of the rotation guys," MSU Coach Ron Polk said. "I thought he was very effective, his changeup was outstanding."

Tyler Perrett, who threw only three pitches in his Tuesday relief appearance, had more work to do Wednesday as he finished the evening out with a scoreless pair of innings. Between them the USM arms limited State to five base hits, total.

"We never got anything started, at all," said third baseman Thomas Berkery.

State starter Brooks Dunn took the loss after scuffling through five complete innings, giving up six hits and five runs though only one of those was an earned score. Dunn (4-2) walked one and struck out three.

It wasn't a beginning to remember for Dunn, who cracked the proverbial door in the first inning with a leadoff walk and two-out single. Still he ought have been out of the frame on a grounder to first base by Beau Griffin. But his defense kicked that door open as Brad Jones backed up on the ball and let it go off his glove and Trey Sutton scored on the error. Jason Lowery followed with a drive to straight rightfield that Brad Corley misjudged and let get over him for a two-run double and 3-0 Eagle lead.

Leading off the USM second Trey Cuevas needed no help in scoring the fourth USM run, as he sailed a solo-shot over leftfield. It was the first longball of the year for the .222 hitter, in only his tenth freshman at-bat.

Errors gave the Eagles another opportunity in their fourth inning. With Jody Blount on first via his leadoff single and one out Dunn was to pitch out. Just not beyond Easley's reach for a wild pitch and free base. Chris Matesich grounded to the mound and Dunn got to the carom only to throw it past Jones. Blount scored from second on the gaffe, so the ensuing twin-killing ended the inning too late with the Bulldogs trailing 5-0.

At that point State decided to give some bullpen men midweek innings to warm up for the next series, beginning with Jamie Gant in the fifth. After walking a pair Gant produced a pair of fly balls and with both runners stealing into scoring positions a called strikeout of Lowery. He retired the side in the top of the sixth, then Justin Pigott and Jesse Carver each took care of a scoreless inning.

Saunders Ramsey couldn't follow that suit as Cuevas led off the USM ninth with a single, the team's first base hit since the fourth. He took second on a sacrifice bunt, and with two outs scored on a Kevin Coker single.

Not that Southern Mississippi needed the icing with Bowden keeping things under control. The Bulldogs wasted their own early chances, stranding a pair in both the first and second innings. Failure to accomplish anything offensively gave the midweek man confidence and Bowden retired the side in the next two turns.

"The whole key is we spot them three and only one of the first fives runs is earned," Polk said. "A couple of plays and we have a 1-0, 2-1 ball game, things could change."

In the MSU fifth Kateon walked and Butts lined a single just over his baserunner's helmet. A pop-out of Rea later Berkery watched a ball just off the plate that ump Larry Short belatedly called a strike. The third baseman pounded his bat to the ground and risked a tossing, had Polk not stepped in to divert attention. It didn't matter as Berkery flew out to rightfield. A walk of Corley filled the bags and earned a mound visit before Jones tapped a nubber to the shortstop.

"He was getting ahead of us, throwing strikes," Berkery said. "And he had a good changeup and kept us off-balance using two or three pitches."

Bowden threw a 100th pitch in his sixth inning—a strike of course—and had sat five-straight going into the bottom of the seventh. Kateon led that turn off with a double to leftfield and with two outs Berkery flipped a base hit just into rightfield for State's first run. And only one, as another walk of Corley meant nothing when Jones again grounded to the shortstop.

Perrett did have to deal with runners, on a catcher's interference in the eighth and leadoff walk in the ninth. Neither got into scoring position. USM finished with eight hits to State's five, and no Bulldog had more than one safety.

"But we left 11 runners on base," noted Polk. "Last night we got the two-out hits, the first two innings we have first and second and couldn't get a key hit."

Now the Bulldogs turn all attention to the weekend showdown at Oxford-University Stadium. And after this setback, some MSU veterans know what needs working on before State takes on the Rebels in a series that is absolutely vital to each in the ultra-tight SEC Western Division standings. Corley said the Dogs are bothered with their play of late, even though they had won five of the last six times before Wednesday's setback.

But this loss pointed to some underlying issues that need addressing, soon. "It just seems everyone is getting frustrated right now, almost pressing," Corley said. "We all need to get our act together and start having fun again."

State will go with the regular weekend rotation of Alan Johnson, Todd Doolittle, and Jon Crosby against the Rebels, who Polk expects to throw righthander Mark Holliman and southpaws Matt Maloney and Eric Fowler.

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