Jake Mangum stroked four hits against Grambling Wednesday to become the fifth MSU baseball player to eclipse the 300-hit plateau. Photo by: Courtesy photo/hailstate.com
March 14, 2019 11:43:05 AM
STARKVILLE -- Grambling scored the first run of the game, but No. 7 Mississippi State tallied the next 18, as the Bulldogs came away with an 18-1 victory on Wednesday evening at Dudy Noble Field.
The Diamond Dawgs (16-1) offense used 18 hits and eight walks to pile up the 18 runs, while the pitching staff allowed just one unearned run on six Tiger (7-9) hits. Six different MSU pitchers combined to strike out 11 Grambling batters, and freshman Eric Cerantola (3-0) picked up the win in relief.
Head coach Chris Lemonis said he's happy with his teams' overall play heading into Southeastrn Conference play.
"If you would have told me we'd be where we are right now at the beginning, I'd tell you I'd take it," said Lemonis. "I think we've learned a lot. We had to learn so much about our pitching, I felt like, and our position players, but mainly our pitching. We've had some guys really develop roles in a short amount of time that I'm excited about."
It was a pair of seniors who provided the biggest hits of the night, as Jake Mangum racked up four hits to move his career total to 301, and Elijah MacNamee provided the power with a grand slam on his way to a five-RBI night.
Mangum became the 24th SEC baseball student-athlete to reach the 300-hit plateau and the fifth MSU player to eclipse the mark. Sitting at 301 career hits, Mangum joins Jeffery Rae (335/2004-07), Richard Lee (328/1995-98), Travis Chapman (327/1997-2000) and Steve Gendron (2001-04) in the exclusive club at Mississippi State. The Pearl, native also moved into a tie for No. 4 on the career doubles charts at Mississippi State with his 55th career two-base hit, equaling Dan Van Cleve's total from 1982-85.
On Mangum's big night at the plate, Lemonis said: "I like to sit back and watch. [There are] times where he's such an aggressive player. When he relaxes and lets the game come to him, he is so talented. Every contact tonight was barreled-up and to all parts of the field. Then he makes that play late in left-center -- he's just a talented player."
Joining Mangum and MacNamee with multi-hit performances were sophomore's Tanner Allen (3), Josh Hatcher (2) and Jordan Westburg (2), along with freshman Luke Hancock (2). Hancock added three RBIs on the night, while Allen and Hatcher each collected a pair of runs batted in. Junior Gunner Halter reached base four times on one hit and three walks, scoring four runs. Mangum and Allen each posted four runs scored, as well.
MacNamee, when asked if the team is focused on the win total, said its focus is on taking care of the little things.
"I am going to be completely honest, when we win I have no idea what win it is," said MacNamee. "I have no idea what number we're on. I think that's how everyone is and that's what's pretty cool.
"The only time we know is when we get the [player of the game] shirt at the end of the game. That's probably why we are being successful, now that you say that. We just come out do what we're supposed to and focus, one pitch at a time."
The first run of the game wasn't scored until the top of the fourth when a couple of two-out Mississippi State errors allowed the Tigers to get on the board first, as a one-out walk by Garrett Smith eventually scored on back-to-back misplays. A fielding error by Justin Foscue at third base extended the inning, and then Tanner Allen wasn't able to catch Foscue's throw in the next at-bat, allowing Smith to cross the plate. Freshman Eric Cerantola got the final out via strikeout to limit Grambling to just one run.
Mississippi State answered in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of runs to take a 2-1 lead, as Allen started the inning with a single and came around to score after Elijah MacNamee singled and the ball was misplayed in right field. MacNamee ended up on third base and scored three batters later on a Josh Hatcher double to left-center field.
The Dogs blew things wide open in the bottom of the fifth when they put up five runs on three hits and benefited from one Tiger error.
Gunner Halter started the inning reaching via a two-base error, before Mangum singled to plate the first run. Jordan Westburg followed with a triple, scoring Mangum, and, after a walk to Allen, scored on a MacNamee sacrifice fly. A Luke Hancock RBI single with two outs was followed by a Hatcher triple to cap the five-run inning.
State scored five more runs an inning later when the first five batters reached, as Halter, Mangum and Westburg all singled to load the bases, before Allen drew a bases-loaded walk to score the first run of the frame. MacNamee then hit a towering 380-foot home run to clear the bases and make it a 12-1 game.
In the bottom of the seventh, Halter and Mangum drew back-to-back walks, and Allen singled with one out to load the bases for pinch-hitter freshman Bryce Brock. In his first collegiate at-bat, Brock singled to center field to plate his first career RBI. Following a strikeout, Hancock delivered a two-out, two-RBI single to move the score to 16-1.
State closed out the scoring in the bottom of the eighth when, again, Halter got the inning started, this time with a one-out walk and Mangum followed with an RBI double. After a walk to Westburg, Allen doubled to left field, scoring Mangum to account for the final run of the game.
Up next for the Bulldogs, who will begin Southeastern Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against Florida in Gainesville. The Bulldogs and Gators will kick off the series at 5:30 p.m. on Friday (SECN+), before playing at 1 p.m. on the SEC Network both Saturday and Sunday.
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