Baseball picks up midweek momentum heading into Ole Miss

Right handed starting pitcher Denver McQuary, a sophomore, winds up on Wednesday night.

Mississippi State University (15-15, 2-7 SEC) shutout Southern University (7-19, 5-7 SWAC) 5-0 on a chilly spring Wednesday night at Dudy Noble Field. The Bulldogs used eight pitchers to defeat the visiting Jaguars, while only giving up five hits.

Sophomore Denver McQuary, a right-handed pitcher, started on the mound and struck out a pair, but only lasted two innings. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Kale Breaux then threw against a few batters but walked three which lead to his replacement. Sophomore left-handed pitcher Riley Self then saw action and earned the win. After 3 strikeouts against the 4 batters he faced, Self was replaced. Freshman left-handed pitcher Josh Hatcher came in, but he too did not last very long. A strikeout and a hit later, Hatcher gave way to junior right-handed pitcher Jared Liebelt.

Liebelt sat down two batters in 1.2 innings and gave way to sophomore right-handed pitcher Keegan James, who then made way for senior left-handed pitcher Zach Neff. Both James and Neff notched a strikeout.

Senior right-handed pitcher Blake Smith then came in and closed out the game, ensuring Southern University did not get a run on the board. Smith struck out a pair during a perfect ninth inning to nail down the Bulldogs' second shutout of the season. Smith has yet to allow a run through eight appearances thus far.

Postgame, MSU head coach Gary Henderson spoke about the win.

"This was a good win for us," Henderson said. "We did not make an error, and also made a couple of great defensive plays. We kept our poise at the plate and then had a big eighth inning. The pitching went like we wanted. Five of them were really sharp and everybody competed."

MSU struck first in the fourth inning. Sophomore center fielder Jake Mangum doubled and then took third base on a SAC fly to right field from junior shortstop Luke Alexander. A ground ball out by freshman first baseman Tanner Allen got the job done to bring Mangum home, giving MSU the 1-0 lead. Mangum extended his reached-base streak to seven games, tying a season high.          

This one run lead remained until the Bulldogs finally broke open the game in the eighth inning.         

Freshman third baseman Justin Foscue started things with a leadoff walk. After a groundball out, freshman designated hitter Marshall Gilbert sent Foscue to third base with a single. Jordan Anderson followed with an RBI-single. Mangum was then hit by a pitch to load the bases.         

A wild pitch scored the inning's second run before Alexander walked to again load the bases.

Allen followed with a two-RBI single. A wild pitch scored the game's final run to make it a 5-0 lead for the Diamond Dawgs. The single through the left side in the eighth inning gave Allen his third multi-RBI performance of the season.  

Southern University stranded 10 baserunners. The Jaguars' best scoring threat came in the third and seventh innings when the bases were left loaded. 

MSU will return to Southeastern Conference play this weekend with a three-game series against in-state rival No. 3 Ole Miss (25-4, 6-3 SEC). The series will open with the first pitch at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Dudy Noble Field.

Mangum, from Pearl, talked about carrying the win Wednesday night as momentum for going into the weekend.

“Absolutely, mid-week games are tough to get up for because we had an emotional weekend at LSU where we could have easily won the series just like Missouri and Vanderbilt,” Mangum said. “These SEC weekends take a toll on your body, but everybody knows what this weekend is, that's all that matters.”

MSU’s utilization of the bullpen is pivotal with a huge weekend home series coming up. The Bulldogs will need all hands on deck against Ole Miss. MSU is looking to claim their first SEC series win of the season. Getting an upset series win over the Rebels would give them confidence and hope down the stretch.

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