A slow grounder tapped to the pitcher and a striding Jake Mangum raced down the first base line. The senior center fielder from Pearl beat out the throw, snapping his hitless streak in the most Jake Mangum way possible with hustle, effort and relentless determination. The hit sparked a Mississippi State Univeristy comeback as they won 5-2 over The University of Miami.
"It’s funny how baseball works, (head coach Chris) Lemonis comes up here last night and says we are looking for ‘Jake Mangum hits’," Mangum said. "Right before I started struggling I remember reading some articles with a couple of quotes saying if you keep playing hard good things will happen. I hit the ball four feet and beat it out."
His hit started the first of a three-run rally in the fourth inning, as Mangum scored on a single by Tanner Allen and then a sac fly by Justin Foscue pushed Jordan Westburg across the plate.
It was then Dustin Skelton’s chopped ball hit down the middle of the infield, which bounced over the glove of the shortstop into centerfield, scoring Allen and giving the Bulldogs the game winning run at 3-2 but the Bulldogs were not done offensively.
In the eighth inning, Mangum again stepped up to the plate as Lemonis said he weighed the option of bunting Mangum but decided to let him swing away. Sure enough, Mangum ripped the ball through the middle of the infield for a double, starting a flurry of hits. This was big because it capped off his three hit night after struggling in the tournament prior to the game.
"It was a big one because I knew that Westburg was going to get the job done," Mangum said. "One thing that everyone has done is keep a positive attitude all year. It’s miserable to be struggling and losing at the same time but when you are winning it’s easy to stay positive and that’s a testament to the guys in the locker room."
Things would get more rowdy in the top of the eighth, as Westburg hit a double scoring Mangum and Marshall Gilbert. The game was not over yet as Miami tried to put pressure on the Bulldogs with one out and bases loaded. For the hurricanes, a storm was brewing.
That storm would run out of steam though, as MSU turned its biggest double play of the night getting out of the jam and leaving Dudy Noble roaring like Davis Wade Stadium on a Saturday.
Nerves would get high again as Rowdey Jordan, a sophomore left fielder from Auburn, Alabama, almost dropped the second out in left field in the bottom of the ninth inning.
"That ball was the highest hit ball I have ever seen in my life," Jordan said. "I was running after it, and I looked over to Jake and I didn’t really want to catch it. I looked over to Jake, and he don’t want it so I had to come up and catch it. I just felt like it wasn’t ever going to come down, but I made the catch."
The next at-bat ended with a baseball leaping towards the warning track in center field, but Mangum was able to haul in the ball to end the game and win the Regional, pushing MSU to its fourth straight Super Regional appearance. It is one they will, in fact, host next weekend.