"Our kids got a great win," said MSU coach Ron Polk. "With Paul Maholm going for us and a very talented freshman, Mark Holliman, going for Ole Miss, as long as both pitchers threw strikes and we make the routine plays then it boiled down to who had a timely hit, which we did."
Maholm (4-1) struck out eight, scattered six hits and worked around a bases-loaded jam in the third inning in registering his fourth straight win this season and his third career decision in as many outings against Mississippi.
Mississippi (17-8, 5-2 SEC), ranked 29th in the latest Collegiate Baseball poll, threatened to break a scoreless deadlock in the third inning when Chad Sterbens and Seth Smith legged out two-out infield singles. Brian Pettway walked to load the bases before Maholm got Charlie Waite to fly out to Joseph Hunter in center field and end the threat.
The Bulldogs missed out on numerous early scoring opportunities against UM freshman starter Mark Holliman (3-1), stranding a base runner in scoring position in each of the first five innings. UM right fielder Seth Smith speared Thomas Berkery's line drive in right-center field to end one Bulldog threat in the second and Matt Tolbert's sterling defensive play at second base robbed Berkery of another RBI hit in the fourth.
"Tolbert made a big-league, ESPN Sports Center play going up the middle, diving and throwing the runner out at first base," said Polk of the outstanding defensive play by Tolbert.
Matthew Brinson opened the sixth with a single to right, Brad Corley lashed a double down the third base line, and Tatum sent both home on a single up the middle.
"We had a guy on second base with less than two outs six straight innings. Thankfully, Craig Tatum got a key hit," said Polk of Tatum's single. "It wasn't hit hard but was a ground ball up the middle."
Corley had two doubles and Matthew Maniscalco extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a pair of singles. Maniscalco also registered his 11th and 12th stolen bases of the year. Bulldog third baseman Steve Gendron went hitless in four at-bats to end his hitting streak at 16 games.
"He hit a couple of balls well," said Polk when informed that Gendron's hitting streak had ended. "It is so difficult to have a hitting streak in this league because of the great pitchers that we see."
Maholm worked around one-out doubles by Dustin Cliburn in the seventh and Sterbens in the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon came on to close out the game and earn his second save of the year. The game lasted two hours and 14 minutes, the quickest game of the year for Mississippi State.
Polk explained why he decided to take Maholm out after the eight inning.
"Paul had thrown 117 pitches and I was about to run out to the third base coaching box and Darren Scholenrock yelled out to me and I came back. He said, 'Paul said he needs to come out because he has a little tightness in his bicep,' which sometimes happens around the 8th and 9th inning," explained Polk. "We don't want to injure the boy because he has a good future. Because we have a guy like Jonathan Papelbon in the bullpen, it was a no-decision on our part."
It was the first loss of the year for Holliman, who gave up two runs on seven hits, struck out four and overcame a trio of walks in the first two innings. He was replaced in the ninth by Anthony Cupps, who retired the Bulldogs in order.
The teams continue their weekend series Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Sophomore righty Alan Johnson (3-0, 2.35) will draw his sixth start of the year Saturday for State, while senior T.J. Beam (3.0, 1.62) is set to start for UM.
"Beam is a 89, 90, 91 miles per hour thrower while Alan Johnson is probably 87, 88 at tops and that is stretching it," said Polk of the Saturday matchup. " (Johnson) is a competitive youngster and he throws strikes. He has a great breaking pitch, probably better than Beam's. There will probably be more runs scored tomorrow than there were tonight."
MISSISSIPPI STATE 2, MISSISSIPPI 0
MSU 000 002 000 -- 2-7-0
UM 000 000 000 -- 0-7-0
WP -- Paul Maholm (4-1). LP -- Mark Holliman (3-1). SV -- Jonathan Papelbon (2). Paul Maholm, Jonathan Papelbon (9) and Craig Tatum. Mark Holliman, Anthony Cupps (9) and Charlie Waite. T -- 2:14. ATT -- 3,401.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher and owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial site for Mississippi State sports since October, 1996. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org