Jake Mangum connects for a single during MSU’s 10-8 loss to South Carolina on Saturday. Photo by: Chris McDill/Special to The Dispatch
May 18, 2019 11:08:34 PM
BY BEN PORTNOY
A campus-wide power outage shut down the electricity at Dudy Noble Field pregame. Someone also seemingly unplugged the Mississippi State offense in the early going Tuesday as South Carolina took the final game of the weekend 10-8.
The Bulldogs combined for just four hits in the first six innings after totaling 33 between games one and two. It was also MSU's first loss since May 4 at Texas A&M.
"It wasn't our day," senior third baseman Marshall Gilbert said. "We ended up fighting hard at the very end which shows a lot about our team. We're just never giving up, no matter what the day is or what happens over the weekend."
MSU's limited offensive output came from senior Jake Mangum and sophomores Justin Foscue and Tanner Allen. Foscue's fourth-inning solo home run to left field tied the game at one while an RBI single from Mangum and an RBI double off Allen's bat gave MSU (45-11, 20-10 SEC) some late-inning momentum.
South Carolina (28-27, 8-22) extended its lead in the seventh when Andrew Eyster hit his second home run of the day off the batter's eye in center field to make it 10-3 Gamecocks.
MSU added another four runs in the eighth to cut the South Carolina lead to three. Gilbert's two-RBI single sparked the inning, while Allen and sophomore Jordan Westburg each notched RBI singles of their own in the frame.
The Bulldogs added one run in the ninth when freshman Luke Hancock delivered a two-out RBI single, before South Carolina reliever Parker Coyne struck out Gilbert to end the game.
"Our guys won't quit, it's Mississippi State baseball," MSU coach Chris Lemonis said. "It's a culture, it's a mindset. They're going to play hard till the very end."
Senior Peyton Plumlee looked more the pitcher he was in the early part of the season, surrendering four runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings of work. Saturday was the first game in which he lasted shorter than six innings since April 23 against No. 15 Ole Miss.
"The ball was up, the last couple weeks it's been on the kneecaps, sinking and (he) left some balls up early in the game," Lemonis said.
While the Bulldogs faltered in Starkville, there was ample scoreboard watching as the day progressed.
The big screen at Dudy Noble flashed live look-ins across the SEC ahead of first pitch -- most notably No. 16 Texas A&M's 6-1 win over No. 4 Arkansas. With the Razorbacks' loss, MSU had a chance to take home the SEC West division title outright with a victory.
Given the loss, MSU will head into next week's SEC tournament in Hoover, Alabama as the No. 4 seed. They will take on the winner of South Carolina and No. 19 LSU Wednesday. Scheduled start time is 8 p.m.
"It's one of the biggest competitions as far as tournaments go," Gilbert said. "It really gives you a little glimpse at what the postseason is like playing that many games, short amount of time, not knowing games and it's the most competitive league in the country."
MSU 11, South Carolina 2
Sophomore Josh Hatcher had himself a series.
After going 2-for-3 with a home run, three runs and an RBI Thursday, he belted two more long balls Friday. His homer in the seventh inning gave MSU the go-ahead run while the second was the longest of the season by any Bulldog at a projected 411 feet.
"It's the best my body and my swing has felt in a long time, probably dating back to the beginning of last year," Hatcher said.
South Carolina hung around early -- leading 2-0 after three frames. MSU responded with nine runs between the seventh and eighth innings for an 11-2 victory.
Allen continued his wildly productive weekend with a 4-for-5, three-RBI night. He was a combined 9-for-10 in the first two games of series.
On the mound, Freshman JT Ginn pitched six innings of three-hit ball, allowing just two runs while striking out eight.
"I think I was overthrowing a little bit, got out of myself," Ginn said. "I got in the dugout and settled down a little bit and was able to go out there and find a rhythm."
Junior Colby White got the win after tossing one inning of relief.
With the win Friday, Lemonis became the SEC's all-time winningest first-year head coach, surpassing LSU's Smoke Laval's 2002 total of 44.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.