By DANNY P. SMITH
The Mississippi State Bulldogs were on their way to potentially having another embarrassing night against the LSU Tigers.
A day after losing a 17-1 decision to the Tigers at Dudy Noble Field, the Bulldogs fell behind 5-0 after three innings Friday in the second game of the Southeastern Conference series.
MSU could have easily folded the tent and suffered another double-digit defeat.
Instead, Devin Jones and the Bulldogs had other ideas.
Jones, the junior righthander from Eupora, worked 5 1/3 scoreless innings and kept MSU in the game.
The Bulldogs kept chipping away offensively and eventually recorded a 6-5 victory at Dudy Noble Field.
Jones was a part of a pitching staff that was responsible for giving up the 17-run onslaught to LSU Thursday and he was determined to have a better outing on Friday.
After having a talk with pitching coach Butch Thompson and catcher Wes Thigpen during pregame, Jones was ready to deliver a better outing.
Jones responded by scattering five hits over his time on the mound and struck out five, including LSU's best hitter Mikie Mahtook twice.
"I had to do something," Jones said. "When the offense scored a couple of runs, that really propelled us forward and that brought all of the momentum on our side.
"You could feel it in the air, at least I did, and the crowd was behind every one of us and that's always great for the crowd to be behind us. You don't realize the support you have, then you hear it and the cowbells, it does something to you."
The crowd of 4,126 wasn't large to Polk-DeMent Stadium standards for an SEC game, but it was enough to pump up the players and never underestimate the emotion the home fans can give a ballclub.
For a while, it didn't look like the fans were going to be much of a factor, but as the Bulldogs began to creep closer to the Tigers and the score went from 5-0 to 5-1 in the third inning, 5-2 in the fourth, 5-3 in the fifth and 5-4 in the seventh, the excitement continued to build.
"You are down 5 at one point and the players just keep it going," MSU baseball coach John Cohen said. "I felt like the players were trying to get the crowd going. Our players were trying to get everything going for us and they did. They just really believe. We talked before the game about all of the early morning hitting sessions. Win lose or draw, they were going to leave it on the field tonight and that's exactly what they did."
Even though Friday's victory helps, Mississippi State still has some work to do. It hasn't punched its ticket to Hoover, Ala., and the Southeastern Conference Tournament just yet.
If the Bulldogs can win today's game at 2 p.m. and take the series, then they can make their reservations.
MSU has a chance if it can come out today with the same fire that came from Jones in game two.
"I just didn't want anyone to quit on the team," Jones said. "I told Coach Thompson that we're not going to quit and we're going to keep pounding away at this."
The Bulldogs need to carry over the momentum they ended the game with Friday and they'll be fine.
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for the Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.