Ron Polks sees it that way as well due to what happened last season. "I always feel that eight teams should go from the SEC every year ever since we expanded to 64 teams. Last year we got eight, but unfortunately the NCAA, being a politically correct organization, may feel like they don't want to make that statement again because they would then feel like they would have to do that every year. I feel like we need to win one and I'm sure if we win two, I feel we are in good shape."
State jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning and appeared to have Alabama starter Taylor Tankersley (8-4) on the ropes early. Chad Henry and Matthew Brinson laced singles to right field, Jason Burkley reached via walk to load the bases, and Robby Goodson, batting against a left-hander, extended his hitting streak to nine games with a two-out, two-run single to left. "Coach (Polk) made the decision to just go ahead and leave Robby in because he has been swinging a good bat," said pitching coach Daron Schoenrock explaining why the left-handed hitting Goodson was in the lineup against a left-hander. Casey Long singled to reload the bases before the Alabama lefthander retired Enrico Jones on a called third strike.
Alabama regained the lead in the bottom of the inning. Travis Garner doubled off MSU starter Tanner Brock (7-5), Jeremy Brown walked and Scott McClanahan followed with a three-run blast over the Hoover Met's left field wall.
The Tide scored twice in the second to lead 5-2. And after the Bulldogs failed to score after loading the bases in the top of the third, expanded its lead to 8-2 with a three-run, four hit surge in the bottom of the third. Singles by Brown and Brent Boyd ended Brock's stay in the game, and Chad White greeted relief pitcher Jeff Lacher with a two-run double. White later scored on the first of three hits on the day by Adam Pavkovich.
The Bulldogs threatened again in the eighth, loading the bases on a pair of walks and a single by Jon Mungle. Jared Woodward replaced Tankersley and doused the MSU threat by retiring Matthew Maniscalco and Chad Henry on fly ball outs to end the inning. State stranded 12 bases runners and hit into two inning-ending double plays.
Tankersley, in his first start against an SEC opponent this year, gave up two runs on nine hits, walking six and striking out three over 7-1/3 innings.
"He was a little wild early. You might say effectively wild," said MSU pitching coach Daron Schoenrock. "He has some life on his fastball and some late movement. Actually, even though he walked six, he made some big pitches. He is going to be a tough one to face the next few years."
"Taylor (Tankersley) has had an outstanding year," said Alabama coach Jim Wells commenting on starting the closer of his bullpen. "We wouldn't have gotten to this point without him. He has come out of the pen all year and was a guy that I could trust week-in, week-out."
Brock was charged with seven runs on six hits in his 3-1/3 inning mound stint. Jeff Lacher worked 2-2/3 innings and Saunders Ramsey two innings. The trio gave up 12 runs, marking just the third game this season in which a Bulldog opponent had reached double digits in scoring. Alabama piled up 18 hits.
"They really capitalized everytime we threw a bad pitch," said Coach Rock. "That is a sign of a good offensive club."
Coach Rock also commented on the pitching of Saunders Ramsey. "I was very proud of the way Saunders competed. He hadn't been out there much on SEC weekends. When he pitched down in the zone during the first time through Alabama's lineup he was very effective."
Brinson, Gendron and Mungle had two hits each to pace MSU's nine-hit, all-singles attack.
ALABAMA 12, MISSISSIPPI STATE 2
MSU 200 000 00 - 2- 9-2
UA 323-020 11 - 12-18-0
WP - Taylor Tankersley (8-4). LP - Tanner Brock (7-5). HR - Scott McClanahan (13). T - 2:37. ATT - 10,111 (SEC Tournament opening session record).
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 email@example.com.