Mississippi State outfielder Rowdey Jordan, shown clapping against Oklahoma in the NCAA tournament’s Tallahassee Regional in Tallahassee, Florida, is hitting a team-best .409 in his the last 10 games. Photo by: Kelly Donoho/Mississippi State Athletic Media Relations
June 19, 2018 10:35:40 AM
OMAHA, Neb. -- Rowdey Jordan stepped in the cage for batting practice on a sweltering Sunday morning at Creighton University's baseball field. Mississippi State baseball assistant coach Jake Gautreau gave him a simple reminder.
Jordan's legs are what took him from an experiment in the No. 2 spot of MSU's lineup to the team's best hitter in the NCAA tournament.
Gautreau first proposed moving Jordan to the 2-hole for contact, with leadoff hitter Jake Mangum's season on-base percentage entering Tuesday at .436. He's been doing a lot more than making contact recently, dropping hits more often than any Bulldog in the NCAA tournament and doing so with power.
Jordan's hitting has steadily improved after he worked his way into the daily starting lineup in mid-April, but finding even more consistency and even more power is part of the reason why Mississippi State's (37-27) lineup is as good as it has been entering the College World Series.
"He's probably a little bit of a stronger base at the plate," MSU assistant coach Jake Gautreau told The Dispatch. "He's in his legs a little more, he has a little more balance. For a little while he was really narrow, there wasn't much of a base and he was like a baby deer on ice."
Jordan didn't see it as an adjustment as much as a reminder.
"I've always been taught hips and hands, get in the legs, but with him overemphasizing it, it really helped me," Jordan said. "In my (batting practice) rounds, I'm thinking, 'Legs, legs, legs,' and when I go up there in a game it's second nature. Since I was practicing in my legs so much it would come naturally."
The result has made the freshman left fielder from Auburn, Alabama, more powerful from both sides of the plate. Jordan ended the regular season with 11 doubles, one double every 12.8 at-bats; his four doubles in the NCAA tournament average out to a double per nine at-bats. He also has two of his seven home runs for the season in the NCAA tournament.
His exploits in the NCAA tournament have bumped his average up 28 points, from .303 after the Southeastern Conference tournament to the .333 entering the College World Series.
At one point, he was part of a crowd of options MSU considered, joining Hunter Stovall, Josh Hatcher and Luke Alexander. Now he is the unquestioned answer at a pivotal lineup spot.
"I think that what happens for all of us, but sometimes you change your lineup because you have to. And obviously early in the first half of the year we were moving a lot of things around," MSU interim head coach Gary Henderson said. "But I think by the time he got to the spot where we could put him in the top of the order, he was competing at a really high level and batting average has jumped tremendously. In terms of his impact, it's a competitive presence at the top, whether there's production or not."
Recently, there has been plenty of production. Enough production that it's made Gautreau treat Jordan differently in specific situations, giving him more freedom to swing away.
"There are times where a situation would call for a hit-and-run, but so many guys have been running balls into the gap or over the fence, so you might think about a hit-and-run," Gautreau said, "but you stop yourself to let it ride."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson