Big innings put Towson St. in big trouble


ORONO, Maine -- Towson State baseball coach Mike Gottlieb said there is one hard and fast rule a relatively unknown team like his must remember when facing a national power like Mississippi State, especially in the postseason.

Don't let the big-time team have any big innings.

Gottlieb's Tigers forgot his rule in the first and sixth innings of yesterday's opening round of the NCAA Northeast Regional at the University of Maine. The result was a 10-4 Mississippi State victory and an uphill fight for Towson (27-22-1) in the losers' bracket of the double-elimination event.

"I've told our guys a thousand times it's the big inning that kills you in a ballgame," said Gottlieb, whose fifth-seeded team was to play sixth-seeded Princeton this morning in an elimination game.

Princeton lost, 13-5, to top-seeded Clemson, which got three RBIs from Dulaney High grad Jim Crowley.

Yesterday, Towson could take comfort in knowing Mississippi State, seeded second in the six-team draw, needed the two big innings to fend off the unheralded East Coast Conference champion. The Bulldogs from the Southeastern Conference found themselves leading by a shaky 3-2 margin after 5 1/2 innings, before their five-run rally in the sixth gave them breathing room.

According to the Bulldogs (41-19), the secret to producing a big inning is not to worry about being in a tight game.

"We were real relaxed even though it was a 3-2 ballgame," said third baseman and reliever Chuck Daniel. "Towson was doing a real good job, giving us a real good ballgame. I guess we just had confidence. We knew we'd get to their pitcher by the end of the ballgame."

The end came for Towson starter Larry Raynor in the sixth after he surrendered a one-out walk to Jimmy Gammill then watched Rex Buckner go with an outside fastball and deposit it over the 375-foot sign in right-center for a two-run homer.

"I thought it was a good pitch," said Gottlieb. "You've got to give all the credit in the world to Buckner. He hit a good pitch well."

The homer was only the beginning of Raynor's trouble, though. Paul Petrulis followed with a single, Jeff Mackin drew a walk, Matt Carpenter added an infield hit and Mississippi State had the bases loaded.

"I just didn't feel like I had my best stuff," said Raynor, a senior righthander. A double steal, sacrifice fly and line single later, Mississippi State had an 8-2 lead, chasing Raynor.

The Bulldogs also had a big inning in the bottom of the first, breaking to a 3-0 lead. Towson battled back with single runs in the third and sixth innings against Mississippi State's B.J. Wallace (10-5). Alex Yost's leadoff walk in the third, a single by Jacen Martinez, a walk to Tom Coleman and an error by shortstop Jeff Mackin on Erik Sheetz's grounder scored the first Towson run.

Back-to-back doubles by Yost and Jeff Banks drove in the second. The hit was Banks' second of the season.

"We felt good with B.J. on the mound," said Mississippi State coach Ron Polk. "He didn't have his best stuff. They [the Tigers] played good ball. I just felt like we'd have a big inning eventually."

Sheetz closed out Towson's scoring with a two-run homer -- his 17th of the season -- in the ninth.

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