March 8, 2018 9:41:12 AM
STARKVILLE -- Rowdey Jordan made history and unraveled five innings of offensive struggles with one swing.
Jordan smacked the first pitch he saw in the sixth inning for a grand slam -- the first home run in the history of the new Dudy Noble Field -- to propel the Mississippi State baseball team to a 6-0 victory against New Mexico State.
"We were struggling a little bit, trying to get momentum," said Jordan, MSU's third baseman. "We got momentum and took off from there."
In the sixth, Tanner Allen reached on a leadoff error. Luke Alexander followed with a single. A walk to Marshall Gilbert loaded the bases. Elijah MacNamee's two-out walk broke the scoreless tie and chased starter Alex Pinedo (0-1). Jordan followed by hitting Alvaro Castillo's first pitch over the right-field wall.
"They talked a little bit about what to expect, got what they expected and didn't waste any time with that nice stroke," MSU interim coach Gary Henderson said. "
Jordan's blast was all starting pitcher Zach Neff (1-2) needed in a bounce-back performance. Neff, a graduate transfer from Austin Peay, allowed nine hits and five runs in 5 1/3 innings in his first two appearances. On Wednesday, the left-hander surrendered one hit in six innings, which is what the Bulldogs expected from him.
"He should have some confidence moving forward after that outing," Henderson said. "It's a game of constant adjustments, but the bigger issue is the thought process and the things he's thinking about himself and the game. Positive thoughts, clear plan, do the best you can to get on the attack, and I thought he did a good job of that tonight."
Neff struck out four of the first five batters he faced. He didn't allow a hit until the leadoff man of the fifth to tie a career high in innings and strikeouts (eight). He also didn't walk a batter and threw 61 of 89 pitches for strikes to help MSU improve to 8-5 with its fifth-straight victory.
"Started off with breaking balls in the first couple of innings and then moved to changeups, really kept them off balance and moved the ball in and out," Neff said. "I felt good out there."
Four of the last five outs Neff recorded came from the infield. He turned it over to Keegan James, who allowed one hit in two innings. Riley Self needed eight pitches for the final three outs.
Junior Jake Mangum had two more hits and is on a three-game, multi-hit streak. Shortstop Luke Alexander and first baseman Josh Hatcher also had two hits.
MSU will go with a weekend rotation of Konnor Pilkington, Ethan Small, and Jacob Billingsley for its series against Utah Valley State, which begins Friday and runs through Sunday. Game 1 will start at 6:30 p.m.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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