Bulldogs Lose Series to Gamecocks

COLUMBIA, S.C. - No. 17 Mississippi State (30-15, 9-11 SEC) came within an out of registering a dramatic series-clinching win over No. 12 South Carolina Sunday afternoon at Sarge Frye Field.

But in the end it was USC (32-12, 13-8 SEC) that provided the biggest drama of the afternoon. Jon Willard lofted a game-tying three-run home run off MSU freshman relief pitcher Chad Crosswhite that just cleared the right field fence at Sarge Frye Field. Crosswhite hit the next batter, Andrew Crisp, and was replaced by junior Josh Johnson, Johnson then gave up a two-run game-winning blast to right by Michael Campbell.

The 11th-inning burst by USC out-did a three-run MSU uprising in the top of the inning that gave the Bulldogs their first lead since opening the game with a run in the first inning. Jeffrey Rea and Edward Easley hit back-to-back doubles to open the inning and Thomas Berkery followed with his sixth home run of the season to put MSU up 7-4.

USC scored twice in the bottom of the first and added a run in the third for a 3-1 lead. MSU chipped away, scoring once in the sixth on a Jeff Butts single and tying the score at 3-3 with a Brian LaNinfa sacrifice fly.

USC plated a run with a pair of walks and a two-out single by Andrew Crisp to lead 4-3 after eight innings, but the Bulldogs got a pair of base hits and a sacrifice bunt to open the ninth and tied the score at 4-4 on Joseph McCaskill's infield groundout.

In his first collegiate start, sophomore lefty Justin Pigott held the SEC's top offensive club to three runs on 13 hits over a career-longest 6-1/3 innings of mound work. Crosswhite replaced Pigott in the seventh with two runners aboard and one out. He got two outs on two pitches to get out of the inning. In the ninth, again with the score deadlocked, Crosswhite worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam. Left fielder Jeff Butts reeled in a fly ball and then gunned down a runner attempting to score for a double play, and Crosswhite got Chris Brown on a grounder back to the mound.

Crosswhite (0-1) took the loss, giving up five runs on five hits with five walks and five strikeouts over a season-longest 4-1/3 innings of mound duty.

The Bulldogs piled up 16 hits, a 16-game high dating back to April 7. Edward Easley matched a career-best with four hits, Rea went 3-for-6 and Berkery drove in three runs with a double and a home run.

Alex Farotto (1-0), the fifth USC pitcher in the game, got the final two outs in the 11th inning to pick up the win. Starter Will Atwood worked six innings, giving up two runs on eight hits.

USC got four-hit plate performances by Crisp and Campbell and Chris Brown added three hits to the Gamecocks' 19-hit barrage.

Mississippi State returns to action at Dudy Noble Field Tuesday, hosting Mississippi Valley State in a 3 p.m. contest. MSU entertains Florida this weekend in a three-game SEC home series.

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