Monday, April 23, 2007

STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Junior right-hander Jared Bradford fired 7.1 innings Sunday to earn his seventh win of the season, leading LSU to a 3-1 victory over No. 15 Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field.

The win gave LSU (23-18-1, 8-9-1 SEC) its second straight SEC series victory over a Top 15 team. The Tigers won two of three games over No. 13 Ole Miss last weekend.

LSU has also won three of its last four SEC series after posting just one win in its first six league games.

Mississippi State fell to 25-10 overall and 9-7 in league play. LSU won a series in Starkville for the fourth time in its last five trips to Dudy Noble Field.

Bradford (7-2), who earned a save Saturday by pitching the final inning of LSU’s 6-5 win over the Bulldogs, threw 102 pitches on Sunday. He limited Mississippi State, which entered the game batting an SEC-best .341 on the year, to one run on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

“There’s no doubt that the most valuable player on our team is Jared Bradford,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “What a superb effort he gave us today after pitching the ninth inning yesterday. He is a great competitor with a tremendous amount of courage. I’m so proud of what he accomplished this weekend.

“I’m also very proud of our entire team. The players never got discouraged after the first game (a 12-3 MSU win on Friday); instead, they played as hard as they could and they were rewarded with two big wins.”

Bradford and Mississippi State starter Josh Johnson were locked in a scoreless duel until the top of the fourth inning when the Tigers pushed across a run.

Third baseman doubled into center field for LSU’s first hit of the game, and he moved to third base on shortstop Michael Hollander’s fly out to center. Blake Dean then grounded out to first base, scoring Jackson with the game’s first run.

Bradford kept the Bulldogs off the scoreboard until the bottom of the sixth, when third baseman Connor Powers launched a solo shot to left field, tying the game at 1-1. The homer was Powers seventh of the season and only the second dinger allowed this year by Bradford.

LSU, however, responded with a pair of unearned runs in the seventh against reliever Aaron Weatherford. Centerfielder Jared Mitchell reached first base when shortstop Brandon Turner misplayed his grounder. First baseman Sean Ochinko sacrificed Mitchell to second base before right fielder Jason Lewis grounded to third for the second out.

Weatherford then intentionally walked leftfielder Ryan Schimpf, who with Mitchell executed a double steal, placing runners at second and third with two outs.

Second baseman Nicholas Pontiff, who had three RBI in Saturday’s win, then came up with another clutch hit, as his single up the middle scored both Mitchell and Schimpf to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead.

Bradford pitched into the eighth inning, when he finally began to show signs of fatigue. He walked centerfielder Mark Goforth to start the frame before retiring second baseman Jeffrey Rea on a grounder to third.

Mainieri elected to lift Bradford for freshman left-hander Shane Ardoin, who retired Turner on a grounder to short and catcher Edward Easley on a line drive to left to end the inning.

The Bulldogs threatened again in the ninth after Ardoin had retired the first two MSU hitters. Ardoin issued consecutive two-out walks to DH Brian LaNinfa and to pinch hitter Jet Butler before Powers singled into left field to load the bases.

Ardoin was relieved by right-hander Paul Bertuccini, who retired Goforth on a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, as Hollander flipped the ball to Pontiff to end the game.

Bertuccini earned his third save of the season. Weatherford (3-2) was charged with the loss as he allowed two unearned runs on two hits in three innings with one walk and one strikeout.

LSU 3, Mississippi State 1 (Apr 22, 2007 at Starkville, Miss.)
LSU...................... 000 100 200 - 3 4 0 (23-18-1, 8-9-1 SEC)
Mississippi State... 000 001 000 - 1 7 2 (25-10, 9-7 SEC)
Pitchers: LSU - Jared Bradford; Shane Ardoin(8); Paul Bertuccini(9).
Mississippi State -Josh Johnson; Aaron Weatherford(7).
Win-Jared Bradford(7-2) Save-Paul Bertuccini(3) Loss-Aaron Weatherford(3-2) T-2:40 A-6736
HR MS - Connor Powers (7).

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