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MSU baseball ends losing streak

 

David Miller

 

STARKVILLE -- Russ Sneed drove in four runs and the Mississippi State baseball team snapped an 11-game losing streak with an 8-5 win against Northwestern State on Wednesday. 

 

The Bulldogs (21-28) broke open a 1-1 game in the seventh inning with RBI hits from Sam Frost and Connor Powers and a monster three-run home run from Sneed, who recorded his second four-RBI game of the season.  

 

Northwestern State (29-19) rallied with four runs in the eighth off reliever Caleb Reed, but MSU held its lead and added an insurance run in the bottom half of the inning to end a school-record losing streak ahead of the team''s final home series of the season.  

 

Coming off three straight conference sweeps and an upset loss to Jackson State, the Bulldogs were in dire need of a win to ease the disappointment of having their postseason hopes dashed. 

 

Sneed didn''t have the expected high that breaking a double-digit losing streak would normally bring. 

 

"It feels good to win, but it''s a game you expect to win," Sneed said. "I don''t think there''s anybody overjoyed by the win. Until Sunday, I didn''t know we had a losing streak going on." 

 

For a team that has struggled like the Bulldogs, the win against a team 10 games over .500 and with a higher RPI at least gets the skid out of the way before Vanderbilt rolls into town Friday. 

 

Freshman Chad Girodo pitched five quality innings but earned a no-decision in his third start of the season. The Alabama native gave up one earned run on seven hits. He threw 67 pitches and recorded multiple first-pitch outs.  

 

"Girodo is just starting to scratch the surface of where he''s going to be," MSU coach John Cohen said. "I know he''s not showing what I''m talking about, but there''s going to come a time when he will." 

 

Trey Johnson earned the team''s first save since April 3, and Reed got the win, working more than two innings.  

 

Reed''s methods were a change from his usual sinking, side-armed delivery. Cohen and pitching coach Butch Thompson opted to switch Reed''s release to overhand after recent struggles with command. 

 

Reed gave up four earned runs in the eighth but retired the side in the seventh and got a 6-4-3 double play with two runners on in the sixth.  

 

"I just think he felt like there was a comfort level where he could get the slider," Cohen said. "It takes tremendous body control to get down where he was before, and he just felt like he was struggling to get to the top of the baseball from that angle. I think he''ll be back down there eventually, but he just needed to do something to change his confidence level and his ability to throw it in the strike zone." 

 

With a deadlock-breaking RBI in the seventh, Powers (2-for-5) moved to sixth all-time in school history with 202 career RBIs. He also reclaimed the Southeastern Conference RBIs lead.  

 

Sneed, who opened the scoring with an RBI double in the first, followed Powers'' RBI with his three-run blast off Andrew Plotkin. He said he made an in-game adjustment to hit for power to left field, though the ball wasn''t carrying to that part of the field.  

 

"Coach Cohen and I had talked in the dugout about trying to create a barrel angle to the left side and I was trying to do that," Sneed said. "I was ready to swing with a runner in scoring position. (The pitch) had a little movement on it. I was leaning out front a little bit and it happened to be away right where I was leaning, and I was lucky enough to stay through the ball." 

 

Oscar Garcia went 3-for-5 to lead Northwestern State. Mason Melotakis got a no-decision after giving up one run on six hits in more than five innings. 

 

MSU will look to win its first SEC series since taking two of three games against Tennessee during Super Bulldog Weekend. 

 

First pitch will be 6:30 p.m. Friday. 

 

n Ole Miss 5, Arkansas State 2: At Jonesboro, Ark., Mike Bianco picked up his 500th career win as a head coach -- his 400th at the helm of the Rebel program -- on Wednesday night as the No. 14 University of Mississippi baseball team defeated Arkansas State. 

 

The win was the non-conference finale for the Rebels (35-15), who went 20-6 outside of league play this season. 

 

Rory McKean (4-1) picked up the win, working five scoreless innings and holding the Red Wolves to four hits while striking out one and walking four. 

 

Brett Huber pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his ninth save. 

 

Brandon Milhouse (0-1) suffered the loss, allowing allowed three runs on three hits with two walks in two innings in his second start of the season. 

 

Taylor Hashman helped pace the Rebels from the leadoff spot with a 2-for-5 performance and two RBIs, while Alex Yarbrough hit his third home run of the season in the fourth and finished one assist shy of tying the school record with eight assists. 

 

Ole Miss will return to action on Friday night when the Rebels take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The first game of the three-game series will begin at 6:30 p.m. at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. 

 

n Southern Miss recognized for academic work: At Hattiesburg, For the second time in the last three years, the Southern Miss baseball team has received the NCAA Public Recognition Award from the NCAA for Academic Success. 

 

This award is presented to those teams that have a NCAA Division I Academic Progress Rate in the top 10 percent of all squads in their sport. In baseball, only 30 of the 301 Division I programs were recognized. 

 

The Golden Eagles are one of only four teams to receive NCAA recognition for academics and be ranked in one of the national polls this week. 

 

Georgia Tech, Texas, and Vanderbilt were the other schools also recognized by the NCAA and ranked nationally. 

 

n In related news, the baseball team was named national team of the week by Collegebaseballinsiders.com 

 

The Golden Eagles (29-17) started the week with a 14-3 victory against Mississippi State and then beat East Carolina in three games to move into second place in the Conference USA standings. 

 

With their current 11-game win streak the Golden Eagles also moved back into the national ranking, coming in at No. 27 in the Collegiate Baseball Magazine poll. 

 

Southern Miss will travel this weekend to No. 21 Rice for a three-game C-USA series. 

 

n Samford 8, Alabama 7: At Birmingham, Ala., Samford overcame a four-run deficit in the sixth inning to post an 8-7 win against Alabama on Wednesday night at Joe Lee Griffin Field. 

 

The Bulldogs (27-20) scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to take its first lead of the game and then snapped a 7-7 tie with a run in the bottom of the seventh to sweep the season series with Alabama. 

 

Trey Hayes led off the decisive seventh inning with a double to right-center field off losing pitcher Brett Whitaker and moved to third on Gary Cramer''s sacrifice bunt. Bo Smith followed with a line out to left field that scored Hayes with the go-ahead run. 

 

Whitaker (1-3) took the loss, allowing one run and two hits in two innings. The Crimson Tide used nine pitchers in eight innings, and Whitaker was the only pitcher to record more than three outs. 

 

Andrew Jones (5-2) was the winning pitcher. He escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh inning. He worked 1 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and one walk. 

 

Samford freshman left-hander Lex Rutledge worked a scoreless ninth inning for his ninth save of the year. 

 

Alabama (29-20) will play host to the University of Mississippi this weekend in its final home series of the 2010 season at Sewell-Thomas Stadium. The series opener will be at 6:35 p.m. Friday. 

 

n In related news, junior shortstop Josh Rutledge was named a quarterfinalist for the 2010 Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year Award, the College Baseball Foundation announced Tuesday. The revised list features 25 of the nation''s finest shortstops. 

 

Rutledge is joined by Arkansas'' Tim Carver and LSU''s Austin Nola as the only three SEC shortstops on the list. 

 

Special reports were included in this story.

 

 

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