STARKVILLE • No. 3 Mississippi State had a dozen hits in its regional-opening win against Southern on Friday.
The Bulldogs needed only three innings to surpass that total the following day. MSU had 13 hits in its first three at-bats and advanced to the championship of the Starkville Regional with a 7-2 win over Central Michigan.
The 11,511 in attendance at Dudy Noble Field on Saturday marked the largest crowd Mississippi State has ever had for a regional game.
“Great atmosphere for college baseball tonight," said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. "From the very first pitch, it was electric in the ballpark. We were able to jump out to a lead. Then, you have one of the best pitchers in college baseball (Ethan Small) on the mound to pitch for you. He pitched great tonight, and we were able to hold on there at the end for a little bit.”
The Chippewas will face Miami in an elimination game today at 2 p.m. The winner of that contest squares off with MSU at 8 p.m. The Bulldogs will start senior right-hander Peyton Plumlee (5-4, 3.89 ERA) on the mound.
On Saturday, he Diamond Dogs strung together seven-straight hits in the top of the first, including a two-run double by Elijah MacNamee and RBI singles by Rowdey Jordan and Josh Hatcher to take a 4-0 lead.
It was more of the same for State in the third, starting the frame with five-straight singles – two of which scored runs off the bats of Jordan and Hatcher again.
“We knew on the scouting report that (Central Michigan starting pitcher Cameron Brown) had great numbers for the year but was a slow starter," Lemonis said. "We felt like with the crowd and the atmosphere that our best opportunity might be in the first. It actually was ... We were ready to go. In a game like that when you get a lead and are able to play with a lead means a lot.”
The Diamond Dogs’ offense was held in check by the CMU reliever Logan Buczcowski for 3 2/3 perfect innings until Tanner Allen’s solo homer off Cameron Miller to start the ninth.
“When I got the 3‐2 count, I knew I had to stay in as sure as I can and just let everything else take care of itself," Allen said. "But being able to hit the home run and get the place fired up, I knew we had the game then.”
Mississippi State ended the evening with 16 hits, led by Allen going 4 for 5 with three singles and a solo blast.
Hatcher was 3 for 4 with a double and two RBIs while Jordan and Justin Foscue were both 2 for 4 and Jordan driving in a pair. Dustin Skelton was 2 for 5 at the dish as the Diamond Dogs improved to 48-13.
“You really have to tip your cap to Mississippi State’s hitters," said CMU coach Jordan Bischel. "Cam Brown, he took his first loss this year. If you were sitting in this spot to see the pitches he was making, it is not like he was throwing the ball down the middle. He made them earn every hit. They went out and got everyone of them. It was impressive display of hitting. They did a great job."
State received another outstanding mound performance from its ace Small. The junior southpaw upped his record to 9-2 after firing six frames, giving up five hits and two runs with 10 strikeouts and three walks.
Both CMU runs came on a two-run blast by Jason Sullivan in the bottom of the sixth.
The Chippewas (47-13) finished with six hits.
The loss snapped a 19-game winning streak for the Chippewas, which was the longest active streak in the nation. Brown (10-1) gave up six runs on 13 hits in 2 1/3 innings.