TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – To reach Championship Monday at the Tallahassee Regional, the Mississippi State baseball team knew it would have to be cranking out the offense Sunday.
The Bulldogs did just that.
MSU made it three straight wins in the losers’ bracket with a 9-8 win over Samford and a 13-5 win over Oklahoma Sunday afternoon and night at Dick Howser Stadium.
No. 2 seed MSU (34-26) will face No. 3 seed Oklahoma (38-24) again at Noon CT Monday in a winner-take-all game for the regional championship. The Bulldogs are trying to make a super regional for a third straight season.
“Our team showed a lot of guts today,” MSU assistant coach Jake Gautreau said. “It takes a total team effort to win two games in a day at a regional. I’m really proud of how we have kept battling the entire tournament. Getting the first run (against Oklahoma) was huge. The (eight-run) third inning then allowed the pitchers to go out there and relax.”
The Bulldogs collected 29 hits combined in Sunday’s two wins. MSU has also hit nine home runs in four games at the tournament.
Game One: Mississippi State 9, Samford 8
A two-run single by Hunter Stovall broke a 5-5 tie in the top half of the seventh inning as the Bulldogs continued their climb back through the losers’ bracket.
After a dramatic 3-2 walk-off win over Florida State Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs survived another grueling test of endurance to win by a run again.
MSU built an early 5-0 lead with three runs in the first inning and single scores in both the second and third innings.
After Elijah MacNamee walked FSU off with a three-run home run, Jake Mangum started Sunday’s first game the same way with a deep blast to left field. MacNamee then homered again with a two-run shot after a Tanner Allen double, also in the first inning.
In the second inning, Dustin Skelton singled. Hunter Vansau forced Skelton on a ground ball but scored himself on an RBI-double by Rowdey Jordan. Luke Alexander hit a sacrifice-fly in the third inning.
Samford (37-26) pieced together three hits, an MSU fielding error and an MSU mental error to plate five runs in the third inning.
Jacob Billingsley (5-3) drew the start for the Maroon and White. He bounced back from the difficult third inning with a 1-2-3 fourth inning.
Billingsley threw seven innings, allowing seven hits and seven runs (four earned), with three walks and three strikeouts. Denver McQuary recorded two outs in the eighth inning, before JP France got the final four outs for his second save.
After being blanked three straight innings, MSU finally broke through with three runs in the seventh inning. After Stovall’s big hit, Luke Alexander had a critical RBI-single for an insurance score.
The Bulldogs then ran the lead to 9-6 in the eighth inning with an RBI-double by Allen.
After Samford struck for two in the eighth inning, France got a strikeout to end that frame and then worked a perfect ninth inning.
MSU finished with 15 hits. Allen and Skelton each had three hits, while Jake Mangum, Jordan and Alexander each had two hits.
Game Two: Mississippi State 13, Oklahoma 5
A brilliant relief performance from pitcher Cole Gordon allowed the Bulldogs to avenge a Friday night loss to the Sooners.
Gordon (4-3) threw the final six innings, allowing seven hits and four runs (all earned), with two walks and a career-high 10 strikeouts. Denver McQuary drew the start for the Bulldogs and worked the first three innings.
The Bulldogs got all the offense they would need by scoring eight times in the third inning to build a 9-0 lead.
After a sacrifice-fly by Dustin Skelton got the scoring going in the second inning, Rowdey Jordan took things from there with a two-run home run to start the eight-run, six-hit third inning.
Justin Foscue and Luke Alexander followed with RBI-singles. Jordan Westburg had a sacrifice-fly, prior to an RBI-single by Jake Mangum. A misplayed fly ball in the outfield allowed two more runs to score.
In the seventh inning, Tanner Allen hit a three-run home run to highlight a four-run at-bat.
The Bulldogs pounded out 14 hits and played errorless ball.
Mangum and Jordan each had three hits, while Foscue had two hits.
NEXT UP FOR MSU
The Diamond Dawgs will return to the field on Monday for a third game with Oklahoma to decide the Tallahassee Regional crown. First pitch is set for Noon CT, with the television network to be decided on Monday morning.
REGIONAL SCHEDULE (All times CT)
Friday, June 1, 2018
G1 – No. 3 Oklahoma 20, No. 2 Mississippi State 10
G2 – No. 4 Samford 7, No. 1 Florida State 6
Saturday, June 2, 2018
G3 – No. 2 Mississippi State 3, No. 1 Florida State 2
G4 – No. 3 Oklahoma 4, No. 4 Samford 0
Sunday, June 3, 2018
G5 – No. 2 Mississippi State 9, No. 4 Samford 8
G6 – No. 2 Mississippi State 13, No. 3 Oklahoma 5
Monday, June 4, 2018
* G7 – Noon – No. 3 Oklahoma vs. No. 2 Mississippi State