FINAL: MSU 8, Alabama 5

The buzz: MSU avoided being swept for the second time this year, as the hits finally fell at key moments. The Bulldogs (25-18, 8-13 SEC) rallied from a 5-2 deficit by scoring twice in the seventh and four times in the eight, and they’re now 2-15 in games in which they’ve trailed after seven innings.

Big inning: Bama (28-19, 10-11) clung to a 5-4 lead (that score sound familiar?) when MSU notched four runs in the eighth. Jaron Shepherd led off with a double, then scored when Alabama pitcher Adam Windsor threw it past the bag at first on Taylor Stark‘s bunt. With the game tied, catcher Cody Freeman launched a two-run homer to left-center for a 7-5 lead. State added one more run when Jarrod Parks scored on a wild pitch.

Key stats: MSU’s pitchers issued eight walks, Alabama’s just one. Parks was hit-by-pitch twice and had an eighth-inning double to extend his hitting streak to 16 games.

MSU at the plate: MSU had 13 hits, and while it stranded 11 runners, the big hits started coming late. Six of State’s hits came in the seventh and eighth innings, and Bama helped out with a pair of errors. Freeman had three hits (including a double off the top of the wall) and the two RBIs, while Nick Vickerson also had three hits to give himself an 8-for-15 weekend.

Alabama at the plate: The Tide had 10 hits, and only three of those came over the final five innings. Jared Reaves‘ lone hit was a three-run homer in the first inning. Brock Bennett and Austen Smith had two hits apiece. Bama stranded 12 runners.

MSU on the mound: In his first SEC start this season, sophomore right-hander Kendall Graveman lasted 4.1 innings, allowing four runs (all earned) on seven hits, striking out two and walking two. Freshman Evan Mitchell (4-1) tossed 3.2 innings to earn the win, allowing one unearned run on two hits while fanning two and walking five. Daryl Norris came in to start the ninth but got only one out, and Caleb Reed brought it home for his eighth save.

Alabama on the mound: Starter Taylor Wolfe was strong, allowing two runs (both earned) on seven hits in 5.2 innings, striking out five and walking one. The bullpen let him down, with the second reliever in, Adam Windsor (3-1), taking the loss.

Bottom line: So, MSU loses two of three … and is right where it started the weekend, two games out of first place in the Western Division. Tied for first are Alabama and Arkansas, at 10-11 each, while Auburn and Ole Miss are both 9-12. Does anybody wanna win this thing?

Quotable: “Just seeing little bloopers drop, and gappers, the home run, everything, it seemed like it all fell into place today.” – Freeman

Up next: MSU travels to South Alabama (22-21) on Tuesday, then stays on the road to take on Tennessee (22-20, 5-16), which is on the verge of being swept by Vanderbilt this weekend – the Vols trailed 19-0 at last check, so I think that record will stand.