MSU Defeats Georgia 7-5

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Mississippi State (16-10-1, 5-4 SEC) took advantage of four Georgia errors and got a stellar relief performance from sophomore right-hander Jonathan Papelbon Friday night to notch a 7-5 win in the opening game of a three-game series at Dudy Noble Field. MSU was out-hit 13-9 by Georgia (16-9, 7-3), which entered the game atop the SEC Eastern Division standings.

Steve Gendron singled in a run in the first off Georgia starter Mickey Westphal and another during a three-run third inning burst that gave MSU an early 4-0 lead.

But Georgia got to State starter Paul Maholm in the middle innings. Maholm gave up four consecutive hits to open the fifth, including a two-run double by Lee Mitchell. Mitchell scored the third run in the frame when Adam Swann laced a single to right to tighten the MSU lead to 4-3. Maholm retired the first two batters he faced in the sixth before Georgia struck again, scoring twice on four consecutive hits. Chaz Lytle singled in the tying run and Mitchell then followed with a hit to right that put UG on top 5-4.

"I thought Maholm, in the 5th or 6th inning, lost a little of his arm slot," said Polk. "That's what he told me on the mound. But he was a warrior out there. Then Georgia, every time they hit the ball, it seemed like we were not in the right spot." Westphal left the game after giving up a leadoff double by Winston Pearson in the sixth inning. His replacement, relief ace Jeffery Carswell, was unable to protect the 5-4 lead. A dropped fly ball in center field, a walk, and a two-run single up the middle by Matthew Brinson, this week's SEC Player of the Week, put State back on top 6-5. "He hung a changeup," said Brinson. "I am aggressive when I go to the plate and he hung it in there."

State stretched it with another unearned run in the seventh when Brent Lewis singled and took an extra base on a misplay in right field. Lewis was replaced by pinch-runner Enrico Jones, who scored the game's final run when Jon Mungle laced a single up the middle of the Georgia infield.

"The one hit that was really a clutch hit was Mungle's," said Polk. "That was big."

Maholm left the game in the eighth after giving up his 12th hit of the game, a single by Clint Sammons. "Toward the end of the game my arm started feeling a little tired," said Maholm. "Because my arm got tired, I stopped locating. My pitch count was a lot higher this week than it was in the earlier games. We just turned it over to the bullpen and let them do their job."

State brought Jonathan Papelbon into the game, who gave up a walk and a single but worked out the bases-loaded jam with a pair of strikeouts. "I was overthrowing a little bit. After a couple of batters, I started feeling fine," said Papelbon.

Papelbon struck out four and allowed just one hit in two innings of scoreless relief work, earning his third save of the year.

"We expect that out of Paps now," said Maholm. "He comes in and throws hard and throws strikes."

Maholm (6-1) gave up five runs on 12 hits and struck out six in seven innings to pick up the win. Carswell (1-3) was charged with a pair of unearned runs in three innings of relief pitching and took the loss.

Carswell has now given up six run this season. All have been unearned.

Steve Gendron and Winston Pearson had two hits each for MSU while Chaz Lytle paced Georgia with three singles.

MSU and Georgia continue their Super Bulldog Weekend series in Starkville Saturday at 3:07 p.m. in a game televised by SEC-TV/FOX Sports Net South. A pair of senior right-handers, MSU's Tanner Brock (3-2, 4.19) and Georgia's Bill Sharpton (3-1, 4.83), will draw starting duties.

"Tomorrow is going to be a war," said Polk. "Bill Sharpton was the pitcher on the mound when we won the regional to go to the College World Series."

MISSISSIPPI STATE 7, GEORGIA 5
UG (16-9, 7-3 SEC) 000 032 000 - 5-13-4
MSU (16-10-1, 5-4 SEC) 103 002 10x - 7-9-0

WP - Paul Maholm (6-1). LP - Jeffery Carswell (1-3). SV -Jonathan Papelbon (3). T - 2:55. ATT - 5,819 (actual), 6,769 (paid).

POST-GAME INTERVIEWS

JONATHAN PAPELBON

Were you glad to take care of the game for Paul Maholm?
"Most definitely. Paul has pitched awesome for us this year."

You came into the game and loaded the bases, then you strike out the next two batters. What did you strike them out with?
"My fastball inside."

Do you think you were overthrowing because you haven't gotten a lot of work lately?
"You could say that because I haven't pitched in a while."

The first three Friday night's have been easy for the bullpen with Paul pitching three complete games.
"Oh yeah. Paul have really competed for us the first three Friday nights. Paul makes my job easy."

Coach Polk is an even keeled guy but did you sense this game and series meant more to him than normal?
"There is no doubt about it. He wants to beat them. They are a great ballclub."

Did he mentioned that to you guys or did you just sense it?
"We sensed it."

Do you think this win will give you momentum for the rest of the series?
"Friday night games are always big games."

How big was the seventh run that expanded the lead to two runs?
"It is always big when you can expand the lead no matter what inning you are in."

PAUL MAHOLM

You pitched really well in the first few innings, then they started hitting you. Did they make good adjustments at the plate or did your arm get tired?
"They made some great adjustments. They started shortening up their swings and going after the first pitch. They got some ground balls up the middle and in the four and six holes. You make them hit ground balls and they were just going through tonight. There is nothing you can do about that."

STEVE GENDRON

What was the mood of the team when you fell behind?
"The mood didn't really change. We were swinging the bats well and we were confident."

MATTHEW BRINSON

You did the right things to win this game.
"That is the key to baseball. Steve Gendron got a couple of hits. Jon Mungle got a base hit up the middle on a 0-2 count to knock in the seventh run. That was huge."

RON POLK

Talk about the game.
"Both teams swung the bat ok with the number one pitchers going. Westphal is really a good pitcher even though he is just a freshman. Carswell had not given up an earned run all year."

Talk about having to coach against Georgia, a team you coached for the past two years?
"When I walked on the field, I thought to myself that I could have come in here with a Georgia uniform on. I told everybody when I took this job, I wish I could divide myself in half, half stay here and half be at Georgia. This is my school but two years is not enough time to do what you have to do. I loved the kids there, I loved our recruits and I loved the coaching staff. I was starting to enjoy Athens. But I was always coming back to Starkville. I told everybody that this was where I was going to retire. I am a Bulldog at Mississippi State and I'm happy that I am here. I will root for the Georgia Bulldogs after they leave here because David Perno is a great friend of mine and because I want those kids to have a great year because they are a part of my life."


Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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