A two-run homer in the top of the seventh inning bounced off the glove of Rowdey Jordan, a junior left fielder from Auburn, Alabama, tying the game and leaving Jordan staring at his glove in disbelief.
His disbelief was short-lived, however, as Jordan hit a lead-off single to right field in the bottom of the inning. Jordan later scored, and the Diamond Dwags never looked back as Mississippi State Univeristy went on to win 11-6 over Southern University in the first game of the NCAA Tournament’s Starkville Regional.
"It’s just post-season baseball," Jordan said. "You just stay in there and compete. We competed all game."
The Bulldogs were led by Jordan, who finished with three runs and three RBIs, and Jordan Westburg, a sophomore shortstop from New Braunfels, Texas, saw a return to form after struggling mightily for the last month.
"It feels great," Westburg said. "It’s awesome to play in a regional when the competition is elevated."
A potent Southern offense, which racked up 11 hits, was aided by the early exit of starting pitcher JT Ginn, a freshman pitcher from Brandon, Mississippi.
Ginn, who has been struggling with tricep soreness, left the game after three innings. Head coach Chris Lemonis said Ginn will be available if the Bulldogs advance to the Super Regional round.
"He’s telling me he could throw," Lemonis said. "You can see it on his face. I just can’t leave him out there."
A brief stint for Brandon Smith, a freshman pitcher from Richland, Mississippi, saw three runs cross the plate in the fourth inning, and Jared Lietbelt, a senior pitcher from Aurora, Illinois, entered the game to finish the inning.
After some much-needed relief from Lietbelt, Cole Gordon, a graduate student pitcher from Tampa, Florida, closed the game for the Bulldogs with six strikeouts in the two innings pitched.
Although the Bulldogs had to endure the loss of Ginn, they welcomed back Elijah MacNamee, a senior outfielder from Cypress, Texas, from a foot injury which saw the four-hole hitter miss seven games.
As he stepped up to bat in the first inning, MacNamee’s walk-up song, "Return of the Mack" by Mark Morrison, had never sounded so fitting. MacNamee was thrown out by the Southern shortstop, but a run scored in his first at-bat.
"He’s a very pure hitter," Lemonis said. "He does a lot of good things for you, and it keeps the lineup moving.”
Lemonis said the atmosphere was electric, and the Bulldogs hope to replicate that atmosphere, as they continue postseason play with their next game against Central Michigan University following their victory over the Miami Hurricanes 6-5 late Friday evening.