Mississippi State outfielder Jake Mangum claps his hands after reaching third base Tuesday night against New Mexico State. Mangum had three hits and two walks in a 9-1 victory in MSU’s home opener Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
March 7, 2018 11:13:57 AM
STARKVILLE -- Cole Marsh was making his Division I debut with his first pitch, a ball, to New Mexico State's Logan Bottrell. It was the Mississippi State baseball team's first home game of the season, a full 18 days after Opening Day.
As it all happened, many fans were busy circling around the outfield walkway, eyeing the new outfield lounges; others were filing into the berm down the right field line with grass seating. Nothing happening on the field was the center of attention; the star of the show was the stadium, Dudy Noble Field.
The first game in the renovated -- and still renovating -- Dudy Noble Field was a success by all accounts: 7,179 people file into the new stadium to watch MSU (7-5) win 9-1 in the first of two against New Mexico State (8-5). The Bulldogs and Aggies do battle again 6:30 p.m. today (SEC Network+).
"I thought it was awesome -- the same thing you thought," interim coach Gary Henderson said. "It was awesome, wasn't it? How could you think anything else?"
In one respect, many things looked and sounded like they never changed. Smoke still emerged from the outfield lounges in ways too grand to ignore; center fielder Jake Mangum still carried on occasional conversations with fans hanging over the outfield wall. Still, even he could sense a difference.
"You can't open up a new stadium with a loss," Mangum said. "It was the most crowded a game on Tuesday night has been here ever, I can tell you that. It's really cool to see and it's not even done yet. Really excited to see it for a big weekend, Vanderbilt next weekend, it's going to be something special."
The importance of the moment was not lost on Marsh (1-0).
"I had so many people calling me, texting me about it," he said. "I didn't have nerves in my stomach, I was just so excited to get out there and play in front of my fans, my coaches, teammates, staff. After the first pitch I threw, I got to calm down."
Marsh's MSU debut saw him shake off a tough first inning to produce a respectable start, lasting five innings with one run allowed on four hits and one walk while striking out three.
"After the three hits in the first inning, he had a chance to waver a little bit, but I thought he kept his poise," Henderson said. "Overall, for a first outing, really impressed and happy for Cole.
"I thought he did a decent job of throwing his fastball down, I thought he threw the breaking ball enough. We didn't get to both sides of the plate efficiently, but I thought it was effective, what he did."
Marsh had additional reasons to rebound from his first inning: he is a transfer from Mississippi Delta Community College and had several former teammates in attendance to watch him pitch after their game was cancelled.
Marsh was relieved by Denver McQuary, who threw four innings of scoreless, one-hit ball to collect his second save of the season. Henderson mentioned earlier in the week that navigating two midweek games could be tricky given the weekend series with Utah Valley looming, and McQuary giving MSU four innings is significant in that pursuit.
Significant progress was made in the run support department, as well.
MSU had failed to score more than four runs in any of its five previous games before exploding for nine on the Aggies. Mangum reached base five times, walking twice on top of three hits, setting up RBI opportunities for second baseman Hunter Stovall, hwo drove in two runs on two hits. First baseman Josh Hatcher also had two hits.
Mangum saw the offensive outburst as a product of the low-scoring games that came before it.
"We saw some really good arms at Minute Maid (Park)," Mangum said, referencing the three-game stint in Houston in which MSU won three times while scoring a combined 10 runs. "Friday night against (UL Lafayette), they threw a guy (Nick Lee), he hit 95 (mph) in my third at-bat and threw 70 percent offspeed pitches. We saw good arms all three days and for us to get out of there with three wins against all those great arms, that's what the SEC is going to be like."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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