Bulldogs back in SEC race|College baseball

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 19, 2010

It’s been a rough season for Mississippi State so far.

The Bulldogs are five games below .500 in the Southeastern Conference and barely hovering above the mark overall. And still, just by winning a couple of games they’re very much alive for a berth in the SEC Tournament.

The Bulldogs collected 15 hits Sunday — including three by Connor Powers — and beat Tennessee 14-6 to win the weekend series in Starkville.

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Although Mississippi State improved to just 19-17 overall and 5-10 at the halfway point of the SEC schedule, they moved into a tie with Kentucky and Alabama for eighth place. The top eight teams make the SEC Tournament and, in a strong league like this, typically the NCAA Tournament.

MSU has not been to the NCAA Tournament since reaching the College World Series in 2007.

“In this league, you can win 66 percent of your games and win it,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “You can win 33 percent of your games and make a regional. If we can just find a way to get in the (SEC) tournament, our RPI can get us in a regional. That is not out of the realm of possibilities. I like our chances with what we can do.”

What they did offensively this weekend bodes well for the future.

The Bulldogs had 11 or more runs and 13 or more hits in all three games, totaling 38 runs and 43 hits.

On Sunday they scored five times in the third inning to take a 7-1 lead. The big blow was a two-run double by Powers, who finished the game 3-for-5 with three doubles, three RBIs and three runs scored.

After Tennessee (18-19, 4-11) cut it to 7-3 in the top of the fifth, Mississippi State put up another five-spot in the bottom of the inning. This time, Jet Butler’s bases-clearing triple into the right field corner crushed the Vols’ hopes.

Butler went 2-for-4 in the game, with the three RBIs and two runs scored. Russ Sneed also went 2-for-3 with three RBIs for the Bulldogs.

“We let them get out to too big of a lead early on,” said Tennessee assistant coach Bradley LeCroy, who was leading the Vols while head coach Todd Raleigh returned to Knoxville where he and his wife Stephanie were expecting their fourth child. “We put a dent in it when we scored two to make it 7-3 and we still had a chance in the game, but you can’t proceed to go out there and give up rebound runs. It just killed the momentum of our team.”