It was a cold Saturday afternoon when Mississippi State University (16-16, SEC 3-8) took on No. 3 University of Mississippi (27-5, SEC 7-4) in a double header after the Friday game was postponed due to inclement weather, and the team jumped out to win 13-3.
“We came out in the first, and they hit the two-run homer and it kind of hit us in the face,” said Tanner Allen, a freshman left fielder from Theodore, Alabama. “But we got back up and hit them, and just kept pouring it on. We came out and played hard, everyone got in on the action and had a team win.”
MSU quickly took an eight-run lead in the bottom of the third after scoring eight runs on five hits. They then went on to hit the ball nine more times, ending the game with 13 runs as the bats for MSU came alive.
“If you watch us, you know we have been struggling the last few games,” Allen said. “With hitting, with runners in scoring position, but the first game we killed the ball with runners in scoring position."
The bats were not the only thing hot tonight as Connor Pilkington, who started the first game, also threw for seven innings and had seven strikeouts, only giving up two runs and earning a win in the first game of the double header.
“I thought he was finally able to relax, and I thought the difference in his rhythm and tempo was very, very obvious,” head coach Gary Henderson said. “I thought he relaxed and did a wonderful job mixing his pitches. I’m sure the big number helped a little bit.”
MSU was able to finish the game with 14 hits in what could be described as the best offensive showing they have put together this season, and Henderson was very happy with what his team showed in the first game.
“It is good to do that, we have not been able to have a lot of big innings this year,” Henderson said. “So when you are able to do that, and create a bit of momentum and a little bit of excitement, offensively you hope that stuff spread."
Game two of the afternoon started off with a slight drizzle and a quick uniform change by both teams. MSU hoped to continue the momentum from the first game of the day; however, they struggled to do so, giving up four early runs on eight hits in Ethan Small’s first three innings, and lost the second game 6-1.
“Once again a pretty stark difference between how we approached game one, and game two,” Henderson said. “We need to approach game three like we did game one today: with that level of intensity and that level of concentration and determination.”
MSU also struggled scoring on base, as they stranded six batters in back-to-back innings with the bases loaded. Henderson believes they can change this for game three by having competitive at bats.
“I think it is time for us to win a conference weekend and we got to play well,” Henderson said. “We can do that by having competitive at bats, fielding the ball well and a starting pitcher who pounds the strike zone.”
The team, despite dropping the second game, has another chance to win a series in a rubber match on Sunday. The team had a similar chance to do so at Missouri, which served as a lesson to the team.
“We go home tonight, get a big dinner, get some good rest, and get ready to go to war tomorrow,” Allen said. “You got to finish a series, there are three games for a reason. There is no reason for us to not come out and give our best.”
MSU will play the rubber match against Ole Miss at 1:30 Sunday afternoon, and the team will have another chance to clinch a series win and defeat a top ranked baseball team in SEC play.