Bulldogs Drop Series Opener at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Mississippi State's late rally could not offset a pair of early Vanderbilt home runs as the Bulldogs fell to the Commodores 8-6 in a Southeastern Conference baseball game Friday night at VU's Hawkins Field.

For Vanderbilt, Aaron Westlake hit a grand slam home run. An inning later, the Commodores bolted to a 7-1 lead thanks to a three-run home run from Steven Liddle. Those two long balls would be enough damage, as the Bulldogs lost the Friday night game in a conference series for a sixth straight weekend.

MSU dropped to 21-22 overall and 6-13 in conference play, while Vanderbilt improved to 25-17 and 8-10. Vanderbilt has now won five straight series meetings, with the Bulldogs last winning back-to-back games in Starkville in 2005.

VU starting pitcher Mike Minor (4-3) sparkled for the Commodores. Minor worked 7-2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and four runs (all earned), with a career-high 13 strikeouts and three walks.

The Commodores struck first with the four-run first inning. Liddle started things with a one-out single. Curt Casali followed with a double just inside the bag down the left field line. After a walk, Westlake hit his second home run of the year - a grand slam to left center.

An inning late, VU struck MSU starter Forrest Moore for three more runs. After a strikout, Moore issued a walk and then hit a batter. Liddle followed with a massive three-run home run over the right field wall. For the VU right fielder, it was his team-best sixth home run of the season.

Trailing 8-1, the Bulldogs did scratch for three runs in the eighth inning. After back-to-back outs to start the inning, Russ Sneed drew a two-out walk. Scott DeLoach followed with an infield hit. Cody Freeman lined a double down the right field line, scoring both Sneed and DeLoach. Brent Brownlee then found the same spot of turf for an RBI-triple. A strikeout ended that threat.

In the ninth inning, the Bulldogs scored twice more. With two outs, Ryan Collins hit a double to left center and Connor Powers followed with a two-run home run to left center. That round-tripper moved Powers total to a team-best 14 on the season and also extended his conference hit streak to 13 straight games.

For the Bulldogs, Moore (2-1) was lifted after the home run. Greg Houston followed and worked a career-best 5-2/3 innings, allowing seven hits and one run (earned), with a walk and two strikeouts. Drew Hollinghead completed the contest.

For the Commodores, Chas Reid followed Minor to the mound. Russell Brewer got the final out of the game for his third save.

The Bulldogs finished with nine hits. Brent Brownlee had multiple hits for the third time this season. Grant Hogue had a single to run his hit streak to six games.

The Commodores finished with 11 hits. Westlake had three hits and five RBIs, while Liddle had three hits and three RBIs.

The Bulldogs and Commodores resume their series with a 1 p.m. start Saturday. MSU is scheduled to start freshman left-hander Nick Routt (4-2, 3.06 ERA), while Vandy is scheduled to start sophomore right-hander Caleb Cotham (5-4, 4.91 ERA). The series finale is also at 1 p.m. Sunday.

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