Bulldogs hold off Carolina

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mississippi State snapped out of its funk on Saturday, at least for one day.

Ryan Collins went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, Connor Powers scored three runs, and the Bulldogs held off a late rally to beat SEC East leader South Carolina 8-7.

The victory evened the weekend series at a game apiece and gave Mississippi State (15-12, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) a rare bright spot in an otherwise dismal week. State had lost three of its last four, with the only win coming against Georgia when MSU rallied from an eight-run deficit in the eighth inning to win 11-10.

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Mississippi State will try to win its second consecutive conference series in today’s 1 p.m. finale in Columbia.

Mississippi State took an 8-3 lead in the eighth inning on Jet Butler’s sacrifice fly, but South Carolina scored four runs in the bottom half to make it interesting.

The Gamecocks mixed four hits with a Bulldog error and a balk. Brady Thomas’ two-run double got them within two runs and an RBI fielder’s choice by Adrian Morales made it 8-7. MSU reliever Devin Jones got out of the jam with another fielder’s choice, then closer Ben Bracewell retired the side in order in the ninth to end it. Bracewell struck out two of the three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his fourth save of the season.

Freshman starter Chris Stratton (3-3) earned the win. He allowed only three runs despite walking five batters and giving up eight hits in five innings. Reliever Chad Girodo gave up four runs in two innings plus — all of the runs in the eighth were charged to him — and Jones was credited with one scoreless inning.

“We had three freshmen and a sophomore out there, competing their hearts out for us today,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “You can’t overstate what Ben Bracewell is doing for our ballclub. This was a very big win for our pitching staff today.”

Whit Merrifield had three hits, including a home run, and scored twice for South Carolina. Thomas, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jeffery Jones all had two hits apiece.

Luke Adkins was 3-for-5 for Mississippi State.

The loss was the second in 17 games for South Carolina (21-6, 6-2), which fell into a tie for the SEC East lead with Florida.