After a blowout 9-1 win Tuesday night at the new Dudy Noble Field, the No. 21 Mississippi State University Bulldogs (8-5) and graduate transfer Zach Neff looked to make it five straight wins Wednesday night against the New Mexico State University Aggies (8-6) in the final game of a two-game series.
Neff, Keegan James and Riley Self combined to pitch a three-hit shutout in route to a 6-0 Diamond Dawgs win. Neff (1-2) matched a career-high with six innings, allowing one hit and striking out eight batters. James threw two innings, while Self closed the game out in the ninth with each one allowing a single hit. The pitching trio struck out 10 and walked one.
Neff, left-handed fifth-year senior from Belleville, Illinois, spoke about his outing and what he wanted to accomplish after getting off to a bumpy start this year.
“Everything was pretty much working, starting off with breaking balls the first couple innings and move to change-ups to keep them really off balanced, I feel like, moved the ball in and out,” said Neff, who had a 24-pitch first inning, but was efficient and kept his pitch count down throughout the game.
“(I) started to find a way to get under barrels, got a few more ground balls and that lead to more efficient innings,” Neff said.
Neff, a graduate transfer from Austin Peay State University, is looking to earn his spot in this rotation, knowing he has to be sharp every single day.
“The competition is more fun than stressful, battling for spots, you know you have to come out and pitch your rear end off every day,” Neff said. “It makes for a lot (of) battle between everybody, just makes it fun for the whole team.”
The Bulldogs' head coach Gary Henderson talked briefly about Neff’s outing and his adjustments.
“Zach had a nice night and this should give him some confidence based on that outing,” Henderson said. “There’s always an adjustment in your mechanics, it’s a game of constant adjustments, but the bigger issue is the thought process and the things he is thinking about himself in the game. Simplify it, get aggressive, positive thoughts, clear plan, just flat out go attack and I think he did a nice job of that tonight.”
Freshman Rowdey Jordan made his mark in MSU history with a sixth-inning grand slam to blow the game open. It broke a 0-0 tie which lasted the first five and a half innings of the game. The Bulldogs finished the game with 10 hits, and Jake Mangum, Luke Alexander and Josh Hatcher had multiple hits each.
The Aggies entered the series with some of the statistically best offensive players in the nation. MSU’s pitching staff held them to one run in the series.
Henderson also talked about his hitters and Jordan’s grand slam.
“Rowdey, Jake and some of the other offensive guys got together to talk about what to expect and (Rowdey) got what he expected,” Henderson said. “He didn’t waste any time and obviously it was a nice stroke right there to change the ballgame.”
Jordan, from Auburn, Alabama, talked about his home run, how it felt being the first to do this at the new stadium, as well as the team’s hitting approach in the mid-innings.
“It takes a second to realize it, but it’s pretty cool to be able to experience that,” Jordan said. “That was our approach, we were struggling a little bit, trying to get momentum, we got momentum and it took off from there.”
The Diamond Dawgs look to extend their five-game win streak at 6:30 p.m. Friday in a three-game weekend home stand against Utah Valley University.