A theatrical weekend series took place at Dudy Noble Field, where the No. 3 Diamond Dawgs (12-3) accumulated three wins over Eastern Michigan University (4-4) and won the series with a sweep.
The mouth-watering smell of charcoal grills in left field permeated through the air, only being overpowered by the roaring cheers of 3,526 fans in attendance on Friday watching the Bulldogs open the series and dominate Eastern Michigan 14-0. Junior Christian MacLeod (1.84 ERA) took the mound first for Mississippi State University and allowed only one hit in the five innings he pitched.
The pitcher from Huntsville, Alabama, walked one and struck out a career-tying 11 batters, setting the school's modern-day record for consecutive scoreless innings with 36 innings. The previous best was 30 innings set in 1976. This marked the fourth straight shutout for MSU and something that has not been accomplished in 112 years, when the 1909 squad recorded five straight shutouts. Head Coach Chris Lemonis could not help but praise MacLeod for his efforts.
"He was really sharp tonight, as sharp as I've seen him in a long time, and it was nice to see him bounce back and respond (after last week's start)," Lemonis said. "He's one of the more talented pitchers in the country. I told the team we all face some little ups and downs as seasons go on with adversity. When you bounce back from it, it makes you a better player. I think that's what we're seeing with Christian right now."
Offensively, senior Rowdey Jordan, an outfielder from Auburn, Alabama; senior outfielder Tanner Allen from Theodore, Alabama; sophomore infielder Kamren James from Southaven, Mississippi; and freshman infielder Lane Forsythe from Humboldt, Tennessee, highlighted the matchup by contributing two runs each. Six other Bulldogs also chipped in one run each, sealing the game.
Saturday’s game played out a little differently than the first. EMU’s Justin Meis took to the mound first and dealt some damage to the Bulldogs. Meis pitched a no-hitter himself throughout most of the game, and a single home run by EMU’s Taylor Hopkins put the Bulldogs behind 1-0. It was not until the bottom of the ninth inning with their backs against the wall that the Bulldogs finally scored a run.
Allen singled up the middle followed up by James who took a hit by pitch giving him a free base. Junior Luke Hancock, a catcher from Houston, Mississippi, then singled, allowing Allen to score and tie the game. With two players still on bases, sophomore Logan Tanner (C) took to home plate and on the first pitch the Lucedale, Mississippi, native smacked a three-run walk-off home run to steal the game with a 4-1 victory.
"We’re such a close group, and we know that if we fight to the end, there is no way we can’t come back," Allen said. "We always feel confident going into the ninth [inning]; we know the crowd is going to get into it."
The Diamond Dawgs pulled off a win in spectacular fashion, marking the third walk-off victory in the season. Junior Eric Cerantola started on the mound for the Bulldogs and threw a career high five innings for the Oakville, Ontario, product, notching five strikeouts and allowing the only EMU run off a solo home run in the fourth inning.
On Sunday, the Diamond Dawgs got on the scoreboard early with three runs in the bottom of the second. Forsythe, senior Josh Hatcher (IF/OF) of Albany, Georgia, and Tanner all scored a run off a double by graduate Scotty Dabrule (IF) of Venice, Florida. EMU would answer back with their only score of the game coming off a single home run by Mark Kattula in the top of the third inning.
The Bulldogs would answer with a run of their own in the bottom of the third when Tanner hit a 388-foot home run, improving the Bulldogs' score to 4-1. Freshman Jackson Fristoe (1.59 ERA), from Paducah, Kentucky, was the starting pitcher for the Diamond Dawgs, and through the first four innings, he threw three strike outs and allowed the single home run from EMU. Sophomore Will Bednar (0.00 ERA) took the mound for the next four innings after starting in the fifth.
Bednar threw seven strike outs and allowed only one hit. The sophomore from Cumming, Georgia, Landon Simms (0.77 ERA), capped off the night by pitching in the last inning for the Bulldogs and threw three strike outs to close the game; putting the finishing touches on an incredible weekend that showcased the Bulldogs' pitching prowess. Bednar played a part in the showcase of incredible pitching, and the Valencia, Pennsylvania, native said he is thrilled to be surrounded by talented pitchers and teammates.
"It’s good to be competitive with the guys who are potential starters, and we are all super competitive. We all want the spots, but we are all rooting for each other to do the best that we can," Bednar said. "It’s really exciting to have so many guys that could be weekend starters against SEC schools, so I’m real excited for what our staff is going to do this year."