Mississippi State

Mississippi State wins opener at Alabama

 Mississippi State coach John Cohen and the Bulldogs picked up a big road win at Alabama on Thursday.
BRUCE NEWMAN/OXFORD EAGLE Mississippi State coach John Cohen and the Bulldogs picked up a big road win at Alabama on Thursday. AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Junior right-hander Blake Smith turned in his best performance of the season and two different five-run innings proved huge as No. 4 Mississippi State knocked off Alabama 12-5 in a nationally-televised Southeastern Conference baseball game Thursday night at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.

Playing for the first time in the recently-renovated Sewell-Thomas, Gavin Collins and Brent Rooker both found the outfield fences to their liking. Collins hit a two-run home run off the foul pole in a five-run third inning, while Rooker launched a massive three-run shot during a five-run ninth inning.

MSU improved to 29-13-1 overall and 11-8 in the SEC Western Division, while Alabama fell to 24-19 and 9-10. The Bulldogs remain tied for second place in the division standings. MSU won its conference series opener for the fifth time in seven weekends.

"We were pleased with the effort," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "It was sloppy at times. We lost a ball in the outfield which was an important play. We also had two ground balls we didn't execute. Our relief pitching was pretty darn good. Blake gave us everything he had. We scored a bunch of runs."

In his 13th appearance of the season, Smith completed the contest by pitching a career-best 3.2 innings. Smith retired eight of the final nine batters for his second save, while also recording a career-high four strikeouts.

Offensively, the Bulldogs surged ahead with the five scores in the third inning for a 6-2 lead.

In the third inning, Hunter Stovall started things by reaching on one of three errors by Alabama. Jake Mangum followed with an RBI-triple to tie the game at 2. Jack Kruger then drew a walk. Both Mangum and Kruger advanced on a throwing error, with Mangum scoring. After an RBI-groundout by Nathaniel Lowe, Collins hit his team-best eighth home run.

Alabama then clawed back with single scores in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Starter Dakota Hudson (6-3) worked the first five innings, allowing six hits and four runs (three earned), with four strikeouts and two walks. Daniel Brown and Keegan James followed before Smith slammed the door in the sixth inning.

The Crimson Tide pulled within 6-5 but stranded two base runners in the sixth inning.

MSU plated an unearned insurance run in the seventh inning before putting the contest away in the ninth inning.

Lowe had a two-run single in the ninth inning, while Rooker hit his fourth home run of the season.

MSU finished with 11 hits. Mangum had three hits, while Kruger, Lowe and Collins each had two hits.

Alabama finished with eight hits. Chandler Taylor had two hits and three RBIs for the Crimson Tide. Keith Holcombe and Hunter Webb each added two hits apiece. UA starter Geoffrey Bramblett (3-3) worked six innings and took the loss.

MSU will try to win the first two games in a series for a third straight time on this campus when the teams meet again at 7 p.m. Friday. A victory there would also give the Bulldogs their sixth conference series win of the year. The game will be available on SEC Network+.