Mississippi State sophomore first baseman Tanner Allen will put his .348 batting average on the line tonight against No. 2 Vanderbilt in the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Photo by: Courtesy photos/Mississippi State Athletics
June 18, 2019 10:46:36 AM
OMAHA, Neb. -- Standing in the shallow outfield grass just beyond shortstop at the Creighton University practice facility, MSU head baseball coach Chris Lemonis shouted across the diamond at sophomore first baseman Tanner Allen.
"Tanner you better work on that range," Lemonis barked toward Allen.
"I've already got that down," he responded in jest.
"Tanner you've got the range of a shoebox over there," Lemonis jabbed back.
The jovial attitude persisted for much of Monday's practice session in an attempt to keep things light and refocus after Sunday's wild win over Auburn in the College World Series.
Sophomore utility man Josh Hatcher and senior outfielder Jake Mangum chirped back and forth as the later took hacks in the batting cage.
Even MSU bus driver Everett Kennard got in on the action -- prodding freshman outfielder Brad Cumbest for his bright green socks.
And while the mood remained light, the Bulldogs are intently focused on tonight's matchup with No. 2 seed Vanderbilt. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. at TD Ameritrade Park.
"Just waking up getting ready to go to practice today, no one was really talking about (Sunday night) as much," senior relief pitcher Cole Gordon said Monday. "You mention it every once in a while, but for the most part we have bigger goals here than winning the first game, so we've got to come back and be ready to play tomorrow."
The Commodores come into the contest having dispatched of No. 7 seed Louisville 3-1 in their opener Sunday afternoon.
Sophomore third baseman Austin Martin led the offensive charge for coach Tim Corbin's bunch. Martin finished 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs on the day.
"I try to separate every at-bat into a different (at-bat)," he said postgame. "At the end of the day, you just don't try to do too much when you're at the plate. The results will happen."
The Commodores also sport junior outfielder JJ Bleday, who is hitting .352 with 26 home runs this season.
Vanderbilt will trot out freshman phenom Kumar Rocker for today's start. Rocker no-hit Duke in Game 2 of the Nashville Super Regional to the tune of 19 strikeouts.
"He's got a very good slider, good fastball," Allen said. "We're going to have to really show up and have a good approach against them to score some runs."
On the MSU front, Lemonis announced Monday that he will turn to senior Peyton Plumlee to start the winner's bracket contest.
Plumlee comes into the game at 7-4 with a 3.67 ERA this year.
In postseason appearances against Stanford and Miami, he combined for 11 2/3 innings pitched, allowing just three runs on seven hits.
Lemonis pointed to Plumlee's ability against left-handed hitters as to what made him a logical starter against a Vanderbilt offense that ranks first in the Southeastern Conference in runs, triples and home runs.
"He's the best matchup for us in this game," Lemonis said. "He's just been really good against left-handers and they've got six out of nine left handers in their lineup."
The Bulldogs and Commodores have met once this season - a 1-0 Vanderbilt victory in the SEC tournament. MSU escaped last season's Nashville Super Regional, with a 2-1 season victory over Vandy.
"That series was hectic for all three of those games," Gordon said. "It was crazy. Back and forth all weekend. Probably one of the best baseball series' I've gotten to be a part of.
"We get another crack at them here (tonight) so we just need to lock back in," he added. "That's really all it comes down to -- us playing our brand of baseball. If we can do that we'll be alright."
The College Baseball Foundation named senior Jake Mangum, redshirt junior Ethan Small and sophomore Justin Foscue first-team All-Americans Monday afternoon.
This marks the sixth outlet to honor Small as a first-team All-American this season, while it is the second such nomination for Mangum.
Foscue had previously received second team recognition from three separate outlets and third-team honors from two others.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.
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