MSU in, UM out of Post-Season Play

Mississippi State (33-22-1, 14-15 SEC), after sweeping the 16th ranked Ole Miss Rebels (37-19, 14-16 SEC) in a Saturday doubleheader, came right back Sunday to sweep the three-game SEC series (their first sweep of the year) and clinch the 7th seed in the SEC Baseball Tournament with a 10-5 victory before almost 5,000 fans at Dudy Noble Field.

"We played really well," said MSU shortstop Matthew Maniscalco. " Everybody was real confident about this weekend and we hope we can step it up in the post-season. That is a great ballclub we just beat. I respect them for the way they played (this season) and I appreciate what they do for the SEC."

Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco commented on his team's frame of mind coming into the Sunday game after losing the doubleheader Saturday. "I think we were ready to play today," said Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco. "The kids were charged. Win today and we move on to the tournament. (MSU) was too good."

Both pitchers, J.R. Pickens for Ole Miss and Chris Young for MSU, appeared to be very charged and were cruising along throwing in the 88 to 90 mph range. Then, in the bottom of the 4th inning, MSU's Matthew Brinson hit a 79 mph curveball over the right-field fence to give the Diamond Dogs a 1-0 lead.

Chris Young then set the Rebels down in order on four pitches in the top of the 5th.

In their bottom half of the 5th inning, MSU got a walk, then scored on a double by Robby Goodson to go up 2-0. The next batter was hit by a pitch to put runners at first and second. Matthew Maniscalco sacrificed them over. After the next batter struck out, Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco pulled Pickens and brought in relief ace T.J. Beam to face Brinson.

"We were going to go to Beam as soon as we were in trouble," said Mike Bianco explaining why he brought Beam in at that point of the game. "As great as J.R. was pitching at the time, with the wind blowing in we couldn't afford to give up anymore runs, especially since we hadn't swung well up to that point."

Brinson, after seeing a steady diet of 92 mph fastballs from Beam, hit a 91 mph fastball over the wall in right-center for a three-run home run to put MSU ahead 5-0.

"It was up at least stomach high," said Brinson. "He got it up and inside and I just got on top of it and hit it pretty good."

Ole Miss, in the top of the 6th, would finally make a little noise. After the first batter lined out to rightfield, the next batter, Seth Smith, hit an 88 mph fastball to centerfield. Sterbens grounded out to second base to drive in the run. MSU now led 5-1.

MSU, however, came right back in their bottom half of the inning, and tallied a run. Jason Burkley hit a one-out double off Beam. After moving over to third base on a flyout by Enrico Jones, Burkley scored on a single by Goodson - his second RBI of the game. MSU now led 6-1.

"I put a good swing on it and drove in a run. They threw me a lot of off-speed stuff and I just tried to let it go by," said Goodson. "I jumped on the fastball when they threw them in there."

Ole Miss, knowing they needed to rally, thought they had something going when Young allowed a double in the top of the 7th. However, he snuffed that out very quickly by getting the next three batters to strike out, ground out and strike out.

However, Ole Miss pitching would not be as effective in the bottom half of the inning. Two of the first three Bulldog hitters (Maniscalco and Brinson) walked to put two on with one out. Bianco, not wanting to get down any further, once again went to his bullpen, replacing Beam with Glen Morris. Steve Gendron greeted him with a single up the middle to drive in Maniscalco and move Brinson to second. A pass ball moved both over one base. Jon Mungle singled to knock in Brinson. Burkley then walked to load the bases. Bianco, continuing to look for someone who would be effective out of the bullpen, then replaced Morris with Nick Bradshaw. Bradshaw struck out Enrico Jones to make it two outs but walked the next two batters (Goodson and Long) to force in two more Bulldog runs. MSU now led 10-1 going into the 8th inning.

Chris Young ran into a little trouble in the top of the 8th, allowing one unearned run, and was replaced by MSU relief ace Jonathan Papelbon. Papelbon walked the first batter that he faced, then a passed ball allowed a runner to score. Papelbon ended the threat by striking out Josh Christian. MSU now led 10-3.

Coach Polk was ejected during the 8th inning for arguing a strike call.

"Coach Polk is a stud at doing that," said Maniscalco. "He knows how to handle the crowd and umpires. He does his thing. That is Coach Polk."

After MSU did not score in the bottom half of the 8th inning, the Rebels put together three straight hits and a sacrifice fly in the top of the 9th to add two runs. Papelbon got the next two batters (Seth Smith and Chad Sterbens) to ground out and fly out to end the game.

MSU was led at the plate by Matthew Brinson and Robby Goodson with two hits a piece. Brinson's two hits were home runs. Brinson knocked in four while Goodson knocked in three. Goodson extended his hitting streak to a career-high eight games.

Charlie Waite led UM with 2 hits.

Chris Young, now 5-1, threw 7.2 innings, allowing 3 runs (1 earned), 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 4 in his first SEC start.

"I was just trying to locate and spot," said Young. "They were swinging early so I was letting the velocity and the movement of the baseball get them out."

Although this was Young's first SEC start, he didn't seem to mind how he had been used during the season up to this point. "I thought that Coach Rock did a good job of getting me a lot of innings. The roles they were pitching me in were where I needed to be at that point in time. Joey (Collums) was doing a good job (in the SEC rotation) and that was where they needed me so that was where I was going to get the innings."

Ole Miss used five different pitchers during the contest.

Ole Miss, for the second straight season, folded in the month of May. They have an 8-17 record in May the past two seasons.

"It is tough. You feel bad, especially for the seniors," said Bianco. "We had a great season up until about three and a half weeks ago. Something happened to us about four weeks ago in the Tennessee series that we weren't able to overcome. It is a lot of things. (Since that series) I don't think we scored but one double digit run game and I think we kept the opponents down under three runs once. We had our share of bad fortune. I don't have the answer. I wish I did."

Young commented on the misfortune of Ole Miss. "I don't even want to imagine what those guys are going through. It is tough to be thinking about hosting a regional, and now not even have a chance to go. That is tough. You feel for those guys but, on the other hand, we are pretty happy with what we have accomplished this weekend."

MSU will face 2nd seed Alabama at 1 p.m. Wednesday in the opening round of SEC Tournament play. This will be the 16th straight SEC Tournament for MSU.

"It feels great (knowing we are going)," said Young. "Once you get there anything can happen. We proved that last year. It is a big ballpark and plays tough for a lot of teams."

Goodson also commented on the upcoming SEC Tournament. "We feel pretty good about our chances going into the tournament. We are on a very good high right now and we just want to keep that rolling."

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