Diamond Dogs Fall At #11 USC In Game 2

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Mississippi State battled hard, before falling to 11th-ranked South Carolina 4-1 in college baseball action Saturday afternoon before a crowd of 5,029 at Sarge Frye Field.

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks played a Southeastern Conference contest full of great pitching and strong defense. Alas, the Gamecocks broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the home half of the seventh inning.

The victory allowed USC to clinch the weekend series. USC won the series opener, 9-1 Friday night. USC improved to 14-5 overall and 3-2 in league play, while MSU is now 9-11 and 1-4.

For the Bulldogs, it was a very strong pitching performance by junior college transfer Lee Swindle, who was making his first SEC start. Swindle (2-1), a junior right-hander, pitched 6-1/3 innings. Swindle allowed five hits and four runs (all earned) with three walks and one strikeout. The former Meridian Community College standout retired the highly-touted USC lineup in order in three of his six complete innings.

"Lee did a great job today," MSU head coach Ron Polk said. "It is hard to pitch in this ballpark. They have a very good offensive lineup. We were trying to hold them down and get some run production."

Justin Smoak hit his fifth home run of the year to lead off the South Carolina seventh inning. That first-pitch shot easily cleared the left field fence and broke a 1-1 tie.

Following the home run, Swindle got a flyout but was then touched for a pair of singles by Andrew Crisp and Harley Lail. An intentional walk to Phil Disher loaded the bases and ended Swindle's day. Tyler Whitney in relief got a groundball out before being touched for a two-run single by Reese Havens, plating a pair of critical insurance scores.

The Bulldogs scored first Saturday afternoon, scoring its lone run in the third inning. Grant Hogue and Nick Hardy had back-to-back singles. Jason Nappi grounded into a double play, forcing Hogue home with his team's only run.

The Gamecocks answered in the fourth inning. Whit Merrfield drew a leadoff walk and advanced on a double by James Darnell. Smoak hit a ground ball to bring USC's first run home. This time, the Bulldogs turned a double play to escape the threat.

Will Atwood (2-0) pitched seven innings to earn the win. Atwood allowed four hits and one run (earned), with five strikeouts and three walks. Brandon Todd retired six of the seven batters he faced to earn his first save.

For the Bulldogs, Whitney worked a scoreless eighth inning to complete MSU's mound duty.

South Carolina finished with six hits, including a pair of hits by Lail. MSU finished with four hits - singles by Hardy, Hogue, Tyler Moore and Jet Butler. The Bulldogs did not have a hit after the fifth inning.

"I thought today, we had a chance to win," Polk said. "We have to find a way to score some runs. The road is tough. I thought we competed today and had a chance to win the ballgame."

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks close their weekend series with a 12:30 p.m. CT start Sunday afternoon. MSU is scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Ricky Bowen (2-2, 6.38 ERA), while USC is scheduled to start sophomore Blake Cooper (2-2, 3.43). The contest will be broadcast statewide on the Bulldog Sports Network and may also be heard through the Internet on M2M. MSU then opens a seven-game homestand with South Alabama at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at Dudy Noble Field.

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