MSU Claims 7-4 Win Over Jax State

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. - Mississippi State (13-0) rode a solid pitching performance by freshman starter Matt Lea and closed out its midweek road trip to Alabama with a 7-4 win over Jacksonville State (7-10) Wednesday night at Rudy Abbott Field. MSU had to overcome a season-high five errors, three during a two-run JSU seventh inning rally.

"We played a nice ballclub and faced their No. 1 (pitcher)," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "We felt like it was going to be a toughie and our guys toughed it out and found a way to win."

Lea (2-0) scattered two runs on six hits and struck out two to earn his second win in as many starts and extend the MSU winning streak to 13 games.

"He didn't strike out a lot, but I was very impressed with Matt today," said Polk. "He competed well. I think he will be a good pitcher for us this year, not only in mid-week games but, you never know, if he keeps pitching well he might be involved in more ballgames other than mid-week ballgames."

The Gamecocks broke on top in the third inning. Bret Pettus opened the inning with a double to left and raced home on Bert Smith's two-out single up the middle.

State, handcuffed by JSU starter Donovan Hand over the first four innings, picked up four singles and punched a game-tying run across in the fifth. Mitch Moreland, Jeff Butts and Jeffrey Rea reached with singles. JSU retired Moreland on the basepaths for the second out of the inning, but Edward Easley delivered a two-out single to right to score Butts and tie the game at 1-1.

Gamecocks shortstop Steven Leach drew a walk to open the fifth inning, advanced on a bunt single and a sacrifice bunt, and scored JSU's second run on Brian Piazza's infield groundout to shortstop.

The Bulldogs sent eight batters to the plate in the sixth inning, loading the bases on walks to Brad Jones and Andy Rice and a single to Joseph Hunter. Joseph McCaskill delivered a pinch-hit single up the middle to score the first of three Bulldog runs in the inning. Infield groundouts by Michael Rutledge and Jeff Butts plated two more runs as State forged into the lead at 4-2.

State added a run in the sixth when Michael Rutledge drew a bases-loaded walk. A wild pitch and a double by Hunter helped the Bulldogs expand the lead to 7-2 in the eighth.

Jacksonville State got back into the game in the eighth inning, plating two runs on three hits and helped along by three Bulldog errors. Mike Valentine struck out Bert Smith with the bases loaded to end the inning.

"The errors don't bother me at all," said Polk. "Brad (Jones) is not going to drop a popup the rest of the way and Thomas (Berkery) has been real consistent and a ball skipped on Andy (Rice) out there. We had been playing great defense. I think we have been fielding close to .980 coming in so that doesn't alarm me at all."

Senior Brett Cleveland came on to finish the game in the ninth, working around a lead-off single to earn his fourth save.

Jeffrey Rea went 3-for-4 and Edward Easley, Joseph Hunter and Joseph McCaskill delivered two-hit plate performances.

"We had the 13 hits in five innings because we didn't have a hit until the 5th inning," noted Polk.

JSU ace Donovan Hand (2-3) took the loss, giving up three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts.

The Bulldogs return home to play the 5th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers (14-3) in a three-game SEC series at Dudy Noble Field. Fridays single-game begins at 6:30 p.m.

"Tomorrow, we'll practice, but it won't be a long practice," said Polk. "Then, we'll get ready for a fine Tennessee team this weekend."

Mississippi State 7, Jacksonville State 4 (Mar 15, 2006 at Jacksonville, Ala.)
Mississippi State... 000 013 120 - 7 13 5 (13-0)
Jacksonville State.. 001 010 020 - 4 10 0 (7-10)
------------------------------------------------------------------ Pitchers: Mississippi State - Matt Lea; Chad Crosswhite(7); Justin Pigott(7); Mike Valentine(8); Brett Cleveland(9). Jacksonville State - Donovan Hand; Tony Drinkard(6); Mitch Miller(7); Clark Jinks(8); Alex Jones(9). Win-Matt Lea(2-0) Save-Brett Cleveland(4) Loss-Donovan Hand(2-3) T-3:22 A-1312

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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