Series win gives Bulldogs a big boost

Published 7:39 pm Monday, February 25, 2019

Mississippi State’s first series of the season was a little too easy for first-year coach Chad Lemonis to get a good read on his team.

The second brought a lot more adversity, a tougher challenge, and ultimately a pleasant reward.

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Tanner Allen hit a walk-off RBI double with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday to give the Bulldogs a 4-3 victory in their series finale against Southern Miss.

Mississippi State (6-1) won the series, taking the last two games after dropping the opener 1-0 in 10 innings. It won the middle game 8-1 on Saturday.

“We learned a lot about our team over the weekend. A lot more than we did the first weekend,” Lemonis said in a postgame interview session. “Seeing some guys in some tough situations and seeing them fight a little bit in Friday night’s game and (Sunday’s) game. They (Southern Miss) are a really good baseball team and competing with them makes you better and coming out on top makes you feel good. I felt like we learned a lot this week.”

The positive vibes coming out of this series vs. Southern Miss (4-2) were far different than the debacle the Bulldogs went through last year in Hattiesburg.

Southern Miss outscored the Bulldogs 23-6 while sweeping that series, and the next day Mississippi State head coach Andy Cannizaro resigned.

Mississippi State overcame that tough start to make a run to the College World Series. With six wins in their first seven games, they’re already looking like a team capable of getting back to Omaha.

“You know what happened last year, you know that they swept us. So, when they beat us Friday night we thought, ‘Man, we need to get them two in a row now,’” said Allen, who had three hits and four RBIs in the last two games of the series. “We came out Saturday night and swung the bat really well and swung it well (Sunday). It’s a lot of momentum going into this week, two midweek games and we’re going on the road this weekend, so we have a lot of momentum going right now.”

Mississippi State will host Jackson State and Southeastern Louisiana in a pair of midweek games Tuesday and Wednesday. It will then head to Frisco, Texas, for its first road trip of the season.

The Bulldogs will face Sam Houston State, Texas Tech and Nebraska in the Frisco Classic beginning Friday afternoon.

Three of MSU’s last four games have been decided by one run. Seeing those kinds of situations will help down the road, Allen said.

“It feels like last season all over again. We were always playing tight games at the end, but it shaped us for later down the road,” Allen said. “We’re going to have tight games (in the SEC) and we’re going to have to step up and have some big plays. That helped us a lot with this weekend.”

Southern Miss, meanwhile, had little to show for a competitive weekend.

It scored five runs and had 15 hits in the series — eight of them in Sunday’s finale — and struck out 37 times in the three games.

On the bright side, the Golden Eagles’ bullpen was superb all weekend. In 15 innings, USM’s relievers allowed three earned runs, five walks, and had 15 strikeouts.

Ryan Och (1-1) took the loss on Sunday, but it was set up by a two-out throwing error. Och also pitched 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief and earned the win in Friday’s 1-0 victory.

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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