Mississippi State beats Ole Miss to take second series win in a row

Published 5:50 pm Sunday, April 16, 2023

STARKVILLE — After struggling through the first part of the season, things are finally starting to look up for Mississippi State.

A couple of series wins, including one against its biggest rival, tends to do that.

Hunter Hines hit a tiebreaking, two-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning, and Aaron Nixon slammed the door with 2 2/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, as Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 5-3 in the finale of a three-game series Sunday.

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Since snapping a school-record 18-game losing streak against Southeastern Conference opponents, Mississippi State (22-15, 5-10 SEC) has won two series in a row and five of its last eight league games. It hosts Southern University in a midweek game on Tuesday, and then heads to Auburn on Friday to begin its next SEC series.

“It’s great. Tomorrow we don’t even have a practice day, but I know most of the team is going to be here working on our game and working on getting better,” said Nixon, who allowed one hit and no walks. “Now it’s time for Auburn. We’re going to go in there and work hard and take it day by day.”

The Bulldogs won their seventh straight series against Ole Miss (20-16, 3-12) by taking the last two games at Dudy Noble Field.

Ole Miss, the defending national champion, has yet to win an SEC series this season. It plays at Arkansas State on Tuesday and then hosts No. 1 LSU next weekend.

Hines hit his 17th home run of the season, and seventh in the last 10 games, to put the Bulldogs in front to stay on Sunday. It came after Colton Ledbetter struck out, but gave Hines an idea of what to look for against Ole Miss pitcher Jackson Kimbrell.

“I was looking for (a slider). He just threw Ledbetter five or six in a row, and mostly throws sliders to left-handed hitters. So I made an adjustment in the box and was sitting on it,” said Hines, who sent the first pitch from Kimbrell over the right field wall.

Dakota Jordan also hit a three-run home run in the third inning to put Mississippi State ahead 3-0. Ole Miss battled back to tie it before Hines’ home run.

Anthony Calarco drove in a run with a ground out in the sixth inning. In the seventh, Peyton Chatagnier walked and scored on a wild pitch and then Kemp Alderman hit an RBI single.

Alderman’s hit was the only one Nixon gave up. He got out of that jam with a double play and retired the last seven batters he faced.

Mississippi State’s pitchers only walked 10 batters this weekend, the staff’s fewest in any three-game series this season.

“We didn’t swing the bat great this weekend, but we really pitched the ball well. That helped a lot,” Hines said. “We had timely hitting. There’s just a lot more things to get better at and I think we’re going to keep it rolling.”

Mississippi State’s players also thanked their fans. Sunday’s attendance of 12,824 pushed the series total to 43,986 — a school record for a weekend series. Saturday’s crowd of 16,423 was the largest in NCAA history for an on-campus baseball game.

“The fans really showed up this weekend and it was awesome,” Nixon said. “They really set the environment. Our players really thrived in it.”