TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - Mississippi State saw two different leads get away as the Baseball Bulldogs dropped both ends of a Southeastern Conference doubleheader Sunday at Sewell-Thomas Stadium.
In the opener, the Bulldogs lost a seven-run fourth-inning lead before falling 9-8 in eight innings. In the nightcap, the Bulldogs let a three-run sixth-inning lead get away in a 6-4 defeat. Per conference policy, both ends of Sunday's doubleheader were originally scheduled for seven innings in length.
Alabama won all three games of the conference series, as MSU suffered its third series sweep of the season. The Crimson Tide has now won five straight series from the Bulldogs. UA has won six straight games and eight of the last nine.
The Crimson Tide improved to 25-15 overall and 8-10 in league play, while the Bulldogs fell to 20-20 and 5-13. MSU is in 10th place in the overall league standings with four weekend series remaining to be played.
In the nightcap, a two-run, two out-single by Brock Bennett highlighted a five-run sixth inning. That hit placed the Crimson Tide on top 5-4.Taylor Dugas followed with an RBI-single for a critical insurance score.
MSU starting pitcher Luke Bole (2-1) worked 5.1 innings, allowing seven hits and five runs (four earned), with three strikeouts and a pair of walks. Kendall Graveman walked one batter in relief. Trey Johnson was touched for the go-ahead hit and the insurance score. Greg Houston worked the Bulldogs out of the sixth inning.
The Bulldogs grabbed a 3-1 lead with three runs in the second inning. Russ Sneed started things with a line drive home run to left field - his sixth of the season. Jet Butler and Jaron Shepherd followed with back-to-back hits. A ground ball hit on the infield resulted in a fielder's choice with the all runners safe and the bases loaded.
Wes Thigpen and Nick Vickerson followed with back-to-back run-scoring hits.
An inning later, the Bulldogs ran the lead to 4-1 on Thigpen's third home run of the season. That lead held until UA's five-run sixth inning.
Jonathan Smart (2-1) picked up the pitching win, with four innings of four-hit relief for the Crimson Tide. Tucker Hawley started but was chased during MSU's three-run second inning.
The Bulldogs finished with 10 hits, including Thigpen's first three-hit game in the Maroon and White. Vickerson and Shepherd also had multiple hits.
The Crimson Tide finished with nine hits. Dugas, Clay Jones and Jake Smith each had multiple hits for the victors.
In the opener, an RBI-single by Bennett in the home half of the eighth inning gave the Crimson Tide a victory.
The Bulldogs actually held a 7-0 lead in the fourth inning of Sunday's opener. However, Alabama erupted for its largest inning of the season - an eight-run fourth inning. The Bulldogs forced extra innings by scratching a run in the sixth inning. UA scored the game-winner two innings later.
The Bulldogs chased UA starter Adam Morgan during a five-run third inning.
After a strikeout opened the inning, Luke Adkins and Connor Powers followed with back-to-back doubles for a 1-0 lead. Sneed followed with an RBI-single plating Powers. A Ryan Duffy single and Cody Freeman walk loaded the bases and ended Morgan's day.
Shepherd greeted new UA pitcher Matt Taylor with a three-run double to left center.
An inning later, Taylor ran into his own trouble when a bunt single by Adkins, walk and hit batsman again loded the bases. This time, the Bulldogs could only scratch twice. In relief, Jason Townsend walked both Freeman and Shepherd to force in a pair of runs.
Alabama quickly answered by touching MSU starter Chris Stratton for all eight runs in the fourth inning. A double by Jones, single by Jon Kelton and walk to David Kindred loaded the bases. Smith then launched his fifth career grand slam and second of the season.
After recording the first out of the inning, two singles and a walk again meant more trouble. Ross Wilson's seventh home run of the season - a three-run shot off the base of the scoreboard - placed the Crimson Tide on top 8-7.
In relief of Stratton, MSU reliever Chad Girodo retired all eight batters he faced. The Bulldogs eventually touched UA closer Nathan Increase (3-1) for a run in the sixth inning. Jet Butler started things with a one-out single. Pinch runner Sam Frost later scored on an RBI-single by Freeman.
For MSU, Ben Bracewell (0-2) entered in the seventh inning and overcame a leadoff walk. In the eighth inning, Bracewell was lifted after a one-out double by Andrew Miller. Devin Jones followed in relief, allowing Bennett's game-winner on the third pitch he threw.
The Bulldogs finished with 13 hits. Adkins, Butler, Duffy and Shepherd each had multiple hits for MSU. Shepherd had a career-high four RBIs in the game.
The Crimson Tide finished with 11 hits. Rutledge was the lone multiple hitter for UA.
MSU is off this week due to final examinations. The Bulldogs return to league play by hosting Ole Miss next weekend at Dudy Noble Field. Game times are set for 7 p.m. Friday (SportSouth), 6:30 p.m. Saturday (FSN South) and 1:30 p.m. Sunday (Comcast Sports Southeast).