No. 5 Mississippi State defeats No. 12 Ole Miss 6-2 to take series lead
STARKVILLE – First it was a home run by Jake Mangum, then a mixture of solid hits and walks that helped fifth-ranked Mississippi State jump out front early over Ole Miss.
Once the Bulldogs grabbed the early lead in the first two innings, Austin Sexton (3-1) made sure Mississippi State (20-7-1, 6-2 Southeastern Conference) didn’t have a letdown.
Sexton had eight strikeouts in the 6-2 complete-game win over the 11th-ranked Rebels on Saturday afternoon inside Dudy Noble Field. That gives the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead in the series against its in-state rival.
The Bulldogs have yet to use a reliever in the first two games of this series; there has been no need to with the way Sexton and Dakota Hudson have pitched.
Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco
Ole Miss (20-7, 2-6) couldn’t find any stability on the mound in the first two innings as RHP Chad Smith (2-3) struggled. The starting pitching has been a weakness as of late for the Rebels, and Mississippi State has exploited that in the first two games with guys stepping up and taking quality swings.
So has Bianco’s team lost confidence, and is it struggling to find its way back to stability?
“I think there’s no doubt about that,” Bianco said. “If you look at what we have done offensively for the last five games, it hasn’t been much. We haven’t scored many runs.”
Mangum got things going for the Bulldogs in the bottom of the first inning when his first career home run went over the right field fence. It was met by a bevy of Mississippi State fans hanging outside the fence trying to catch the free baseball—the first score of the afternoon.
Then came more hits.
Ryan Gridley singled to right field, which allowed Elih Marrero to score. Moments later, Jacob Robson singled to left field and Cody Brown scored. Another score came when Smith inadvertently hit Mangum with an incoming pitch that sent John Holland across home plate.
In the bottom of the second inning, the Bulldogs were up 4-0, and things were beginning to spin out of control for the visiting Rebels. Smith gave up five hits and never seemed totally comfortable on the mound in front of the raucous Mississippi State crowd. After seeing Magnum get beaned with the pitch, Bianco headed to the mound to talk to Smith.
”I wish I knew,” Bianco’s response when he asked what was going on with his starting pitcher.
After 1.1 innings and a couple of words, Smith’s day was done and freshman RHP Brady Feigl’s day was set to begin. Feigl had made his way to Ole Miss’ bullpen as Mississippi State was gradually gaining momentum during its scoring-fest in the bottom of the second.
He initially calmed down Mississippi State’s offensive attack; however, the Bulldogs eventually added six hits and two runs off Feigl as they took a commanding lead over the Rebels.
Ole Miss battled back and avoided the shutout as sophomore Tate Blackman went 2-for-4 with one RBI, while Cameron Dishon added a pinch-hit double. Blackman’s two hits give him a team-leading, 10th multi-hit game of the year. J.B. Woodman notched a hit with a runner in scoring position. But that was it for the Rebels as they totaled just four hits on the day.
J.B. Woodman, Ole Miss outfielder
Ole Miss will get one more opportunity against Mississippi State Sunday afternoon (1:30 p.m. CST, SECN+).