Diamond Dogs are on the Upswing going to Tennessee

Dustin Skelton hit a home run during the game against the University of Louisiana Monroe. Skelton's home run was one of the 21 runs Mississippi State University scored.

A night filled with 21 runs and 19 hits for No. 5 Mississippi State University (25-5) started in a bang with Tanner Allen, a sophomore infielder from Theodore, Alabama. Allen hit a solo home run to cap off a seven-run inning leading MSU to a comfortable 21-8 win over the University of Louisiana at Monroe (11-18).

Allen was in a slump coming into the night, but he seemed to swing out of it as he had a home run shot in his three at-bats. He said Jake Gautreau, hitting coach for MSU, had worked with him all season and he gave him a green light at-bat.

"I just went up there and said all of this mechanical stuff can go out the window," Allen said. "Just up here, see the ball, and try to hit a line drive. Simplify it. I just tried to hit a line drive, and I hit it out of the park."

The home run had an exit velocity of 100 mph, a launch angle of 20 degrees and traveled 370 feet as it cleared the right field wall. The hit was emblematic of an offensive upswing for not only Allen, but for the team as well as they head into a road series at the University of Tennessee (22-8). 

"It boosts my confidence big time, coming out here after having a tough weekend against LSU, I had three out of four quality at-bats,” Allen said. "The last at-bat I gave away, I swung at a ball and got myself out. I’m my worst enemy. It boosts my confidence for sure, thinking about a big weekend at Tennessee for sure."

Following a tough weekend against LSU, where MSU only scored seven runs in their two losses, the Bulldogs hit the ball well, adding to their confidence before they make the trip to Knoxville.

One of the hitters who played well was Jake Mangum, a senior center fielder from Pearl, who had five hits, three runs batted in and six at-bats. MSU head coach Chris Lemonis said it was massive for the team to play so well, especially so early in the game.

“We had a good start tonight, Jake had another five hits tonight,” Lemonis said. “That first inning really set the tone for us the rest of the game. We have been there lately, behind early and really chasing people, so it was nice to play that way.”

The Bulldogs have also been working on defense and communication. Lemonis said he saw an improvement from his team in the game against ULM, but they still have room to improve, as they committed one error Wednesday. Additionally, Allen said they have been working on communication this week.

"It's funny, we are doing fly ball communication two days ago with music blaring in the stadium and nobody there,” Allen said. “It is a lot louder on the field than you think, so you really have to scream your head off in order for someone else to hear you."

Lemonis said the game against ULM allowed the team to move players around in the infield in order to get some game time and at-bats for players to add more depth to the team.

One of the veteran players who saw his game cut short due to the lineup changes is Dustin Skelton, a junior catcher from Olive Branch, who had two hits and six RBIs in just three at-bats before being replaced by Hayden Jones, a freshman catcher from Huntertown, Indiana, to end Skelton’s night.

Skelton also hit a grand slam in the first inning to help the team jump out to their early lead in the first inning. Skelton said the team will need to be prepared, because this is a Tennessee team that has speed on the base paths, defense and pitching, if they want to win Friday night. 

“We know we have to get right back on track,” Skelton said. “Credit to Tennessee, we know they are going to really pitch it well. They are going to really defend well. So we have to go in there with the right mindset and win on Friday night.”

The first pitch is set for 5:30 p.m. Friday.

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