Bulldogs begin long road trip with a win

Published 10:38 pm Friday, February 23, 2018

The 21st ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs took home their second win of the Gary Henderson era on Friday, beating UC Santa Barbara 7-4 in the second game of a two-week road trip.

Freshman Josh Hatcher did a lot of the heavy lifting at the plate. He opened up the Bulldogs’ offense with a solo home run to right field in the first inning and followed that up with another solo blast in the fourth. Hatcher’s solo homer was the first of four runs during the fourth inning. Luke Alexander and Tanner Allen notched back-to-back doubles and Elijah MacNamee sent two runners home with a single.

UCSB (1-4) got back into the game the next inning after a throwing error gave it an extra opportunity at the plate. Andrew Martinez responded by going yard for the first time in his career for a two-run homer.

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Things were quiet until the eighth inning, when UCSB freshman Marcos Castanon drove in a run with a double, and Martinez hit a sacrifice fly that scored another.

Heading into the ninth, the Bulldogs held just a one-run lead, but some key hits by junior outfielder Jake Mangum and Hatcher helped them put the game away. Mangum delivered an RBI single, and then Hatcher came through in the clutch once again with an RBI single of his own.

From there, it was up to closer Blake Smith to shut down the Gauchos’ comeback attempt and secure the Bulldogs’ second win in a row.

UCSB started off the bottom of the ninth with three straight singles, and had a chance to send the game into extra innings or steal the victory. Smith dug in, and struck out the next two batters swinging and forced a pop out for the final out.

MSU pitcher Konnor Pilkington picked up the win. He had four strikeouts in five innings of work. Reliever Cole Gordon added five more strikeouts in two innings, and Smith notched his first save.

The error in the fifth inning left a little to be desired for Henderson, but he was impressed with how his team finished the game.

“We would have liked to play a cleaner game, however, that was still a great win,” said Henderson, who was in his second game as interim coach following the sudden resignation of Andy Cannizaro earlier in the week. The Bulldogs have won both after being swept in a three-game series at Southern Miss last weekend.

“Pilkington competed well today,” Henderson added. “Blake was great there in the ninth inning, but the biggest thing was scoring twice in the top half of the inning. What our offense did in that at-bat was outstanding.”

The win came on the second stop of the Bulldogs’ nine-game, 12-day road trip that continues through next weekend. All of the games except Wednesday’s win at Jackson State and a date at McNeese State in Lake Charles, La., are in Texas.

Mississippi State plays Nicholls State Saturday afternoon in Corpus Christi, Texas, and then faces Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday.