MSU Drops SEC Series Opener At South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. - For a second straight Friday night, Mississippi State had a tough time in the opening game of a Southeastern Conference baseball series.

South Carolina junior right-hander Mike Cisco lost his shutout bid in the eighth inning but the 11th-ranked Gamecocks still beat the Bulldogs 9-1 before a crowd of 4,810 at Sarge Frye Field.

The victory improved the Gamecocks to 13-5 overall and 2-2 in league play, while MSU fell to 9-10 and 1-3. A week ago, each team lost its Friday night game, with USC falling 4-3 to Vanderbilt and MSU falling 15-6 to Ole Miss.

"(South Carolina) hit the ball well," MSU head coach Ron Polk said. "Cisco is a lot better this year than he was last year. We couldn't put anything together. This is a tiny ballpark. We gave up seven walks and were pitching behind in the count. You can't do that in this park."

The Gamecocks struck quickly Friday night - scoring three times in the first inning. USC then added a single score in the second inning, two scores in the fourth inning and a single score in the fifth inning. MSU broke up the shutout with a single score in the eigth inning, while USC answered with two scores in its half of the inning.

In the USC first inning, Whit Merrifield drew a one-out walk. Merrifield stole second and came home on a hard-hit two-out Justin Smoak single, off the third baseman's glove. Catcher Kyle Enders followed with a two-run home run to left field. For Enders, it was his fourth home run of the year. An inning later, Phil Disher slapped a solo home run, also to left field - his fifth of the season.

In the USC fourth inning, Merrifield and James Darnell had back-to-back RBI singles. The Gamecocks ran the lead to 7-0 an inning later when Disher laced an RBI single to center field, scoring Andrew Crisp, who had also singled.

MSU finally broke through in the eighth inning With two outs, Mark Goforth lined a double to left field, ending Cisco's night of work. Reliever Alex Farotto was touched for Grant Hogue's third hit of the night - an RBI single, plating Goforth. After Nick Hardy drew a two-out walk, Farotto was lifted for Parker Bangs. Bangs struck out Jason Nappi to end that threat, with the Bulldogs stranding two base runners.

In the USC eighth inning, the Gamecocks tacked on a pair of insurance runs with a sacrifice fly by Smoak and an RBI single by Crisp.

Cisco (4-0) earned the win. The USC hurler worked a season-high 7-2/3 innings, allowing five hits and one run (earned), with five strikeouts and one walk. Following Farotto, Bangs worked a scoreless ninth inning to close out the win.

Making his first SEC start, Jesse Carver (1-1) took the loss. The MSU senior left-hander worked five innings, allowing nine hits and seven runs (all earned), with four walks and four strikeouts. Michael Busby followed in relief for the Bulldogs. Busby worked three innings, allowing four hits and two runs (both earned), with three walks and no strikeouts.

South Carolina finished with 13 hits. Merrifield and Disher each had three hits for the Gamecocks. Enders and Crisp also had multiple hits for the Gamecocks.

MSU fiinshed with seven hits - three of those hits coming from Hogue, who also swiped an SEC-leading 14th stolen base in the game. Jet Butler had multiple hits with a single and double. Goforth added his double, while Cody Freeman added a single.

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks resume the weekend series with a 3 p.m. CT start Saturday. MSU is scheduled to give junior right-hander Lee Swindle (2-0, 2.45 ERA) his first SEC start, while USC is slated to start junior left-hander Will Atwood (1-0, 4.05). The Saturday contest will be broadcast statewide on the Bulldog Sports Network and will also be available on-line through M2M. The series concludes with a 12:30 p.m. CT start on Easter Sunday.


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