April 9, 2009
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team found the momentum Wednesday night it will need in a weekend Southeastern Conference baseball series at Tennessee.
The Bulldogs used a walk-off solo home run by junior designated hitter Ryan Duffy in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Southern Mississippi 7-6 at Dudy Noble Field.
After taking the first pitch from reliever Collin Cargill, Duffy hit the second pitch over the left-field fence for his fourth home run of the season.
"I was looking fastball," Duffy said. "That''s all that guy throws, so I stayed back, got the barrel on it, and good things happened.
"This was big. Those guys are good rivals. That was a battle all of the way. They are not going to quit, and we''re definitely not going to quit. It was great to get a big win like that."
The win thrilled the MSU players so much they knocked over home plate umpire Guy Mitchell in their celebration.
It was the second consecutive victory for the Bulldogs (18-15), who will now turn their attention to the Volunteers.
MSU coach John Cohen said victories like Wednesday night''s can only help him transform the program.
"This is one of those steps," Cohen said. "When you have success in these moments, you go back in your mind, so hopefully we''ll be able to use this in the future. For us to gain any kind of momentum with our pitching as banged up as it is, getting two wins in the middle of the week really helps."
Four of the Bulldogs'' seven runs came off the long ball.
Connor Powers hit his ninth of the season, a two-run shot in the first, to give MSU a 2-0 advantage. Russ Sneed hit his fifth in the seventh to put the Bulldogs up 6-5 before Duffy''s final blow.
"We''ve competed every game for a while now," Duffy said. "Maybe now things will change for the better for us."
It was a difficult loss for the Golden Eagles (20-11), who defeated MSU 10-7 on March 17 in Pearl.
USM coach Corky Palmer, a former coach at Lee High School in Columbus, used five pitchers against the Bulldogs.
"Give State credit because they were able to get it done and we were not," Palmer said. "The game was really decided in the middle innings when we got the lead and could not hold it."
The Golden Eagles scored four runs in the sixth to chase starter Chad Crosswhite and take a 5-3 lead.
The Bulldogs tied the game in the bottom of the frame on an RBI single by Ryan Powers and a sacrifice fly by Grant Hogue.
After Sneed''s homer put MSU on top 6-5, USM used an RBI double by Joey Archer to tie the game in the eighth.
Duffy home run gave redshirt freshman pitcher Paxton Pace his first victory.
"Paxton Pace competed his heart out, and it was his first time in these type of situations," Cohen said. "He''s a kid who wants to be out there, and that''s something we''re in need of."
Pace worked the final four innings, scattered six hits, gave up four runs (one earned), struck out one, and walked none.
After having thrown against Auburn on Sunday, the coaching staff was concerned about how long Pace could throw.
"(Pitching) Coach (Butch) Thompson wanted to know how my arm felt and I told him I''d be able to give an inning or two," Pace said. "Once I came in and got my adrenaline going, every time I came to the dugout, I was telling them one more (inning)."
Duffy added a double and Sneed had a single to the 10-hit attack, while Luke Adkins, a transfer from USM, had a single and double. Ryan Powers chipped in two singles.
For the Golden Eagles, Bo Davis had three singles, James Ewing added two singles, Archer and Josh Fields doubled and Taylor Walker hit a solo home run in the fourth.
NOTES: MSU''s Ryan Powers extended his hitting streak to 10 games. ... Connor Powers has hit a home run in four of his past five games. ... With his third-inning stolen base, Grant Hogue became the second Bulldog to have two 20-steal seasons, joining Mike Kelley. ... MSU tied a school record by turning five double plays. ... The attendance was announced as 2,353.