MSU Defeats Georgia 10-3 to Stay Alive

Mississippi State and Georgia, both trying to advance in the SEC Tournament and help their NCAA Regional chances, played the first game of the SEC Tournament in Day 2 of the tournament. Mississippi State (34-23-1) defeated Georgia (30-17) behind the outstanding pitching of sophomore lefty Paul Maholm.

"Coach Polk does such a good job staying even-keel and preparing for each game the same," said Mississippi State pitching coach Daron Schoenrock. "Our players knew their backs were against the wall but they didn't feel any pressure. They just came out and played well and let it go."

Mississippi State jumped on Georgia freshman pitcher Mickey Westphal for four runs in the first two innings.

Matthew Maniscalco led off the first inning with a single up the middle. After Chad Henry singled, Matthew Brinson flied out and Steve Gendron reached on an error to load the bases. Sophomore Robby Goodson, batting .373 coming into the game, singled to right field knocking in two runs, his 29th and 30th RBIs in just 76 at-bats.

Mississippi State once again jumped on Westphal in the top of the second inning. Casey Long reached on an error by the third baseman. Jon Mungle reached on a bunt single. After Maniscalco got on base by way of a fielder's choice, Henry doubled to left center to knock in two runs to give MSU a 4-0 lead.

Westphal finally settled down and shut the Bulldog hitters down in the third, fourth and fifth innings.

Meanwhile, MSU starting pitcher Paul Maholm, staked with the lead, shut down the Georgia hitters the first five innings, allowing no runs on one hit.

"Paul was doing a good job of making the ball get played early in the count early in the game," said Schoenrock. "That keeps the defense flowing. They like to play behind a guy that keeps the game moving like that."

Sophomore right-hander Matt Woods came in for Westphal in the top of the 6th inning after Westphal allowed a double by Brent Lewis. Long advanced Lewis to third on a groundout. Mungle walked, putting runners at first and third with one out. The next batter up, Maniscalco, hit a sacrifice fly to left field to knock in Lewis to give MSU a 5-0 lead after 6 innings.

Woods retired the Bulldogs down in order in the 7th inning.

While Woods came in and calmed the Bulldog bats in the 6th and 7th, MSU's Maholm continued to do the same with the Georgia hitters. Through the 7th inning, he had allowed no runs on 3 hits and 1 walk. He had 5 strikeouts during the same span.

Mississippi State's bats finally got to Woods in the 8th. Burkley led off with a walk. After Lewis struck out, Long singled past the first baseman, moving Burkley to third. A smash by Mungle to right field knocked in Burkley to give MSU a 6-0 lead. Georgia coach David Perno, knowing there was no tomorrow if his team lost today, replaced Woods with right-hander Brandon Moorhead after the Mungle single. Moorhead faced MSU earlier in the season, allowing 1 run on 4 hits and 3 walks in 5 innings. He also struck out 12. He was not so effective this time, however, allowing a two-run single by Henry and a run-scoring single by Gendron before being pulled by Perno for senior Bill Sharpton. Sharpton retired Goodson to end the inning.

MSU led 9-0 going into the bottom of the 8th inning.

Georgia finally got to Maholm in the bottom of the 8th, scoring three runs. After Maholm walked the first batter, the next two hitters reached base on hits. Ned Yost singled to drive in one run, then a double by Adam Swann knocked in Georgia's second run of the game. Maholm recorded his first out of the inning when he caused Justin McClain to hit a sacrifice fly out to centerfield. Yost scored on the sac fly.

MSU got one of those runs back in the top of the 9th. Burkley singled and advanced to second base on a groundout. On the first pitch, Mungle singled back up the middle to knock him in to make the score 10-3, MSU.

Maholm set the side down in order in the bottom of the 9th.

Maholm (10-3) threw his sixth complete-game of the season, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits and 2 walks while striking out 7. He threw 128 pitches during the game.

"We weren't sure going into the game how good Paul's stuff would be, pitching on four days rest," said Schoenrock. "After he went through the lineup one time and he was able to execute the gameplan that we had, I knew that we were going to get a good day out of Paul."

Taking the loss for the Georgia Bulldogs, Westphal (5-5), in 5+ innings, allowed five runs (4 earned) on 8 hits and no walks while striking out 3.

The MSU Bulldogs had 14 hits. Eight of the nine starters recorded hits. Chad Henry, 3-for-5 at the plate, knocked in 4 RBIs, matching his career high. Mungle also had a three-hit day, going 3-for-4 with 2 RBIs. Goodson and Lewis had two hits apiece.

"A couple of keys were the at-bats our left-handed hitters had today," said Schoenrock. "Those guys have been seeing the ball pretty well and Mickey (Westphal) didn't bother our left-handed hitters much today. That was a key."

Adam Swann led the Georgia Bulldogs with 2 hits.

Mississippi State, who will probably throw junior right-hander Chris Young, last year's SEC Tournament MVP, will face the loser of the Alabama vs. Florida game 3 p.m. Friday in an elimination game.

"I think we are going to go with Chris and see if he can repeat the outing that he had against Ole Miss (last Sunday)," said Schoenrock. "Chris has pitched very well in this ballpark in the past and I think the team is going to feel very good behind him."


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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