FINAL: Alabama 5, MSU 4 (10 inn.)

The buzz: The long ball figured prominently into today’s game, as did some ill-fated base running and lack of timely hitting on MSU’s part. Pinch-hitter Brett Whitaker hit a solo home run to lead off the 10th to give Alabama the winning margin – it was his first hit of the season in nine at-bats.

Big inning: The 10th, obviously, when Caleb Reed was victimized by Whitaker. Reed wasn’t as sharp as usual; more on him in a second.

Key stats: MSU was 3 of 11 with runners in scoring position and left 10 men on base. MSU was 1 of 4 in stolen-base attempts. MSU pitchers issued five walks, Alabama’s one.

MSU at the plate: Right fielder Jaron Shepherd hit his first two home runs of the season, a solo shot in the second for a 1-0 MSU lead, and another solo blast in the eighth to tie the game 4-4. Oddly, he was called on to bunt to lead off the 10th and was thrown out. Shepherd and Nick Vickerson had three hits apiece. MSU banged out 15 hits.

Alabama at the plate: The Tide stranded 12 runners but still got key hits. It scored twice in the fifth to tie the game, then pulled ahead in the sixth on an odd play: Brock Bennett hit a pop-up with two outs, but first baseman Ryan Collins called off catcher Wes Thigpen and couldn’t come up with it. The ball landed near home plate and bounced foul, but the ump ruled it had been touched, and the go-ahead run scored to make it 4-3.

MSU on the mound: Starter Chris Stratton lasted 4.0-plus innings, leaving after Bama opened the fifth with a triple and a single to cut MSU’s lead to 3-2. He was ultimately charged with three runs (two earned) on five hits, fanning two and walking two. Tim Statz allowed one run in 1.1 innings, and Luis Pollorena was strong, allowing no runs on one hit and retiring eight in a row. After 3.0 innings of work, he was lifted for Reed (0-1), who gave up one run on four hits in 1.2 innings.

Alabama on the mound: Starter Nathan Kilcrease worked 5.0 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. Three relievers got work, and lefty Jonathan Smart (3-1) tossed 2.1 shutout innings for the win.

Bottom line: This is a bad start in a series MSU felt really good about winning. Pressure’s on now, especially with LSU finishing off a sweep of Kentucky earlier today to improve to 7-14 in the SEC – MSU is 7-12 (24-17 overall). Alabama (27-18, 9-10), for the moment, is now two games up on the Bulldogs

Up next: Game 2, in just a few minutes.

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