April 4, 2019 11:06:24 AM
Mississippi State sophomore infielder Tanner Allen can exhale.
Entering the batter's box in the first inning of Wednesday's 21-8 win over the University of Louisiana-Monroe, Allen finally got ahold of one.
Squaring, stepping and swinging, Allen belted just his second home run since a Feb. 16 game against Youngstown State -- the second game of the season.
"I hadn't felt that feeling in awhile," he said. "But it was a good feeling."
Allen's long ball comprised the latter half of back-to-back home runs from he and junior catcher Dustin Skelton -- who smoked a grand slam the at-bat prior.
It was the second time MSU recorded back-to-back homers this season despite not having done so since 2017.
"Everybody in the lineup, one through nine, was swinging a good bat," Allen said.
While the Diamond Dawgs coasted after a seven-run first inning, Allen's homer perhaps marked another slumping youngster breaking out his midseason funk.
Sophomore utility man Josh Hatcher was the first.
A 2-for-3, 2-RBI night against Grambling State on March 13 helped him to a six-game hit streak. Hatcher now has hits in eight of his last 12 appearances.
Sophomore outfielder Rowdey Jordan has also turned a corner.
Despite a slow series against LSU, he tallied two 3-for-5 outings against Auburn on March 23 and 24.
Jordan backed that up with a 4-for-5, 2-RBI game against Mississippi Valley State the following night.
He finished Wednesday's game 2-for-4 with 2 runs and 2 RBIs.
The latest revelation is Skelton. Riding an 11-game hit streak, he was 2-for-3 with 6 RBIs against ULM.
And then there's Allen.
He's already failed to reach base safely seven times this year despite doing so in 56-of-68 games last season.
Yet after finishing 1-for-3 with 2 runs scored, an RBI and a walk, Wednesday offered a glimpse into what the sweet-swinging sophomore can do when he wraps his hands around a ball.
"Tanner's had a tough week or so, but I don't see it lasting long," MSU coach Chris Lemonis said of his struggles. "He's too talented of a hitter."
DAWG NOTES: Senior center fielder Jake Mangum continued his climb up the MSU all-time hits chart with a 5-for-6 performance against ULM. Mangum's 333 career hits are just two short of Jeffrey Rea's program record of 335.
Freshman pitcher JT Ginn was named Perfect Game's Midseason National Freshman of the Year. Ginn is 6-1 with a 3.32 ERA in seven starts. He ranks No. 17 nationally with 58 strikeouts and his 9.67 strikeout-to-walk-ratio sits No. 11 in the country.
Additionally, Mangum and sophomore infielder Jordan Westburg were named midseason First and Second Team All-Americans, respectively.
Perfect Game also named Skelton to the Buster Posey Award Watch List, which honors the NCAA's top Division I catcher.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.
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