Berkery homer lifts Bulldogs
By By Austin Bishop / EMG regional sports director
May 23, 2003
HOOVER, Ala. Thomas Berkery handled being a hero just fine, it's what heroes do after hitting a game-winning homer that he still has to work on.
When Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk made his appearance at the postgame press conference following the Bulldogs' dramatic 5-4 12-inning win over Ole Miss in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament on Thursday night, he showed up without Berkery.
Who could blame Berkery for being a little disoriented and a whole lot excited?
Ole Miss reliever Brae Wright was one out away from sitting MSU down one-two-three in the bottom of the 12th and forcing at least one more extra frame when Berkery turned on an inside fastball and did what nobody else had been able to do in the opening day of tournament action at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, bang it out of the park.
On this night, Berkery beat the Bear.
The win pushes MSU into an 8 p.m. winners' bracket game today against the winner of Thursday night's late game between LSU and Arkansas.
Ole Miss, now 33-24 on the year, plays the LSU-Arkansas loser at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.
While MSU has a chance to sleep late and get rested for its late game tonight, the Rebels have to turn around and play a key elimination game just 15 hours after losing a heartbreaker to their arch-rivals.
Ole Miss sophomore outfielder Seth Smith said getting ready for today's game shouldn't be a problem.
Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Jonathan Swearingen singled, moved to second on a hit by Seth Smith, stole third and scored on a ground out by Stephen Head, who was serving as both starting pitcher and designated hitter for the Rebels.
MSU tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the second when Berkery singled in Joseph Hunter with two outs. The Bulldogs, now 39-16-1, took a 2-1 lead thanks to a Craig Tatum single in the fifth.
The teams swapped runs in the seventh, but Ole Miss scored twice in the top of the ninth when Smith singled in the tying run and Matt Tolbert scored on a wild pitch to put the Rebels up 4-3.
Tatum tied the game at 4-4 in the bottom of the inning when his double scored Steve Gendron from second.
Jamie Gant pitched two strong innings in relief for the Bulldogs, striking out three and allowing just one hit while moving his record to 4-1 on the season.
Wright, now 4-4 on the year, allowed just two hits in 3.1 innings of work, but one of those was Berkery's game-ending blast.
There was a little controversy in the top of the eighth when Ole Miss pinch-runner Shawn Yarbrough was thrown out at the plate to end the inning. Television replays made it look as if Yarbrough was already sliding across the plate head first when MSU catcher Tatum tagged him in the small of the bag.
MSU will send Alan Johnson (5-3) to the mound tonight, while Ole Miss will start Mark Holliman (4-6).