[Premium article] On a cool and overcast Saturday afternoon, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and East Tennessee State Buccaneers played the second game of a three game series in front of 1,460 fans.

Behind the strong pitching of junior college transfer Alan Johnson, Mississippi State defeated ETSU, 10-1."> [Premium article] On a cool and overcast Saturday afternoon, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and East Tennessee State Buccaneers played the second game of a three game series in front of 1,460 fans.

Behind the strong pitching of junior college transfer Alan Johnson, Mississippi State defeated ETSU, 10-1.">

MSU Defeats ETSU, 10-1

<img src="http://www.genespage.com/images/01players/baseball/2003/alanjohnson.jpg" align="left" width="125" height="164"> [Premium article] On a cool and overcast Saturday afternoon, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and East Tennessee State Buccaneers played the second game of a three game series in front of 1,460 fans.<P> Behind the strong pitching of junior college transfer Alan Johnson, Mississippi State defeated ETSU, 10-1.

"I didn't think that East Tennessee State swung the bats as well as Birmingham Southern and Connecticut, so (Johnson) just had to throw strikes," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "And he is a strike thrower. Plus, he has that great breaking ball. I think he dazzles people because he is so effortless."

Johnson, a sophomore right-hander, started the game off strong, striking out the side in the first inning.

ETSU starting pitcher, Tim Turner, wasn't as effective.

MSU jumped on him in the bottom of the first, scoring one run.

Matthew Maniscalco led off the inning with a single and advanced to second on a balk. Steve Gendron, the next batter up, singled, knocking in Maniscalco.

Like the first, Johnson set the side down in the top half of the second inning.

Mississippi State, meanwhile, kept banging away at Turner, scoring another run in the bottom of the second inning.

After the first two batters grounded out, ETSU's Turner ran into control problems and walked the next two batters. With two men on, Maniscalco, on a 3-1 count, hit a line drive up the middle to knock in Jon Mungle to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.

"He stayed up in the strike zone," said MSU freshman right-fielder Brad Corley. "We went up there trying to be patient. We got a couple of walks that started a big inning."

Like he did in the first two innings, MSU's Johnson mowed the ETSU's batters down in order in the third.

Through the first three innings, Johnson retired the side in order, with five of the nine outs being strikeouts.

During the bottom of the third, MSU put even more distance between themselves and the Bucs by scoring 3 runs to make the score 5-0.

Matthew Brinson started it off by hitting a double after the first batter made an out. Corley hit a ball over the right-fielder's head knocking in Brinson. J. B. Tucker knocked Corley in with a ground ball single up the middle. After loading the bases, Turner walked Maniscalco, forcing in the final run of the inning.

"Yesterday, I came out trying to kill everything," said Corley. "I tried to change my approach today. They were throwing off-speed (pitches) outside, so I tried to take everything the other way."

Neither team scored in the fourth inning.

In the fifth inning, Alan Johnson had his perfect game broken up when he hit Chad Boruff. After the hit batter, Johnson retired the next three batters, two on strikeouts; his 10th and 11th of the game.

In the bottom of the fifth, ETSU made a pitching change by bringing in Jeremy Hall to replace Tim Turner.

Turner allowed 5 runs on 6 hits, 6 walks while striking out 1 in his four innings.

"We got his pitch count up and that hurt him," said Polk. "I think by the fourth inning he was over 100 (pitches)."

Hall held the Bulldogs down in the fifth, but in the bottom of the sixth the Dogs scored one run.

With the bases loaded, Robby Goodson, pinch-hitting for Tucker, hit a sacrifice fly, knocking in Steve Gendron.

MSU now led the game 6-0.

The big lead made Johnson's job much easier.

"Run support is a key in pitching," said Johnson. "You can do pretty much whatever you want to do if you have run support."

And Johnson continued pitching well.

The first batter weakly grounded out to second base. The next batter was hit by the pitch, the second hits batsman of the day for Johnson. The next batter hit into a tailor-made double play to retire the side.

In the bottom of the seventh, the Bulldogs blew the game open, scoring 4 runs on 5 hits.

True freshman Jeff Butts, pinch-hitting for another true freshman, Joseph Hunter, started the rally off with a single. Maniscalco followed that with another single. Brent Lewis knocked in Butts with the third base hit of the inning. Steven Gendron then loaded the bases with a single. Redshirt freshman Brad Jones hit a sacrifice fly, knocking in the second run of the inning. Pinch-hitter Winston Pearson hit a double, knocking in the last two runs of the inning.

The Bulldogs now led 10-0 after 7 innings.

All that was in doubt now was whether Johnson would throw his first collegiate no-hitter.

That was quickly settled in the top of the eight inning when pinch-hitter Beau Alford, the first batter in the inning, hit a solid single. Coach Polk immediately took Johnson out for reliever Jonathan Papelbon.

"(MSU pitching Coach) Rock was going to throw him 85 to 90 pitches," said Polk. "His 90 is like other people's 110 because he is effortless. When he got to the seventh inning, I told Rock we'll just let him go. The first time they get a base hit we'll go with Papelbon and that is exactly what happened."

Papelbon gave up a single to Blake Church, the first batter that he faced. After striking out the next batter, Papelbon gave up an RBI single to Shane Byrne. The next batter hit into a fielder's choice, which put men on first and third with two out. Papelbon settled down and struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Neither side scored in the bottom of the eight or the ninth inning.

Johnson, now 2-0 on the young season, threw 7 innings, allowing 1 run on 1 hit, no walks and 11 strikeouts.

Johnson was happy with his performance but was unhappy with the one hit that he allowed.

"Everything was working," said Johnson. "Pretty much everything has to work when you pitch like that. I was happy with the performance but giving up the one hit stinks."

Johnson has now thrown 14 innings in his two starts, allowing 3 runs on 7 hits, no walks and 15 strikeouts.

Mississippi State, with a season high 14 hits, was led in hitting by Brad Corley with 3 hits in 4 at bats. Other Bulldog players with double digit hits were Matthew Maniscalco (2-for-3), Brent Lewis (2-for-2), Steve Gendron (2-for-5) and Matthew Brinson (2-for-4).

"I think our bats are starting to warm up and everybody is starting to feel good at the plate," said Corley.

The Bulldog defense also played well, not committing an error for the the second straight game.

MSU and ETSU conclude their three-game series Sunday. Game time is set for 1:30 p.m. Redshirt sophomore left-hander Todd Nicholas will start for the Bulldogs while ETSU will counter with left-hander Steven Calicutt.


Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at swindoll@genespage.com


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