(Photo Courtesy of Mississippi State Athletics)
When the dust settled Sunday afternoon in Columbia, SC and the Gamecocks had walked off the Bulldogs to thwart a sweep, it was easy to be a little angry. I’ll be the first to admit that I was a bit ill a not being able to seal the deal and break out the brooms. I was brought back down to earth by my buddy Read who pointed out the obvious, “We went on the road and took 2 out of 3 from a top 20 SEC program, and, in those 2 wins, we beat them like a “Cherokee Drum”.” It’s easy, as Bulldog fans, to overreact. We have been spoiled by our guys, and that’s a good problem to have. From Polk to Lemonis, we have expected to win ‘em all, and they have obliged us more times than not. The Boys in Maroon won another SEC series and did it in fairly dominant fashion.
The series started on Friday night when Chrisitan MacLeod (4-3) took the bump and delivered arguably his best performance of the year, a performance worthy of the lefty’s second SEC pitcher of the week honor. MacLeod went 7 innings of shutout baseball, giving up only 1 hit and fanning 6 to lead the Diamond Dawgs to a 9-0 win.
The Bulldogs racked up 12 hits on the night. Rowdey Jordan, Logan Tanner, Kamren James, and Lane Forsythe each had multi-hit nights. Tanner Allen continued to raise his average, which sits in the upper .300’s while also pushing his on-base streak to 7 games. Rowdey’s on-base streak now sits at a whopping 29 games. The game was never in doubt as the Diamond Dawgs struck early and often to open the series on a high note.
Game 2 went nearly as good for the Boys in Maroon as they rode the long ball to a 9-6 victory. Will Bednar (5-1) took the bump and, as a good friend of mine put it, “bullied” the South Carolina batters. The Valencia, PA product went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 6 hits while stifling Gamecock batters to the tune of 13 Ks. The Bulldogs scored 3 in the first and never looked back. Logan Tanner hit his team leading 10th home run of the year, and Rowdey Jordan and Luke Hancock each hit their 8th. The Bulldogs scattered 14 hits on the day, receiving multi-hit days from Rowdey Jordan, Tanner Allen, Luke Hancock, Logan Tanner, and Scotty Dubrule. Rowdey Jordan extended his on-base streak to 30 games. The Bulldogs had the game well in hand until errors reared their ugly head in the later innings and allowed the Gamecocks to pull within 3. This led to the summoning of Landon Sims, who went 2 innings of no-hit baseball and recorded his 6th save of the campaign.
Where games 1 and 2 had no shortage of runs, game 3 was lacking in that department as the Diamond Dawgs fell by a 4-3 final. The Gamecocks jumped in front in the bottom of the 2nd on a 2-run home run. The Bulldogs would begin to claw back when Kellum Clark tripled and scored on a Kamren James sacrifice fly in the top of the 3rd. Tanner Allen would tie the game with a solo shot in the top of the 5th, and Rowdey Jordan would provide the go-ahead run with a solo shot of his own in the top of the 6th. The Gamecocks tied it up in the bottom of the 9th on a two double before another double plated the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.
Jackson Fristoe drew the game 3 start and had a rare off day. The freshman went only 3 innings, giving up 2 runs on 1 hit and striking out 4. Fristoe also issued 4 walks which would prove to be a problem. The Bulldogs would receive a stellar bullpen outing from Brandon Smith, who took the loss.
With that series win, the Bulldogs have all but sewn up a national seed in the NCAA tournament. With regional hosts being announced Thursday or Friday, it is very safe to assume the Dudy Noble will once again play host to an NCAA regional, and probably a super regional as the Boys in Maroon look to be in position to receive a top 8 national seed. The looming challenge now for the Diamond Dawgs is a conference championship. The Bulldogs are in a 4-team race with Arkansas, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee that will, no doubt, come down to the final day of the final weekend. If the Boys in Maroon can take care of business the next two weekends, they have a very good chance to win the conference for the first time since 2016.
The Bulldogs play a midweek game on Tuesday before they host Missouri in a series that starts on Thursday night. First pitch for the midweek contest against UT-Martin is set for 6:30pm CT. The Tigers if Missouri come to Starkville for a series that begins at 7:30pm CT on Thursday. Coach Chris Lemonis spoke with SuperTalk Mississippi on Monday and announced that the Saturday starter is TBA, which means that freshman Jackson Fristoe may not be in his normal spot in the rotation.
This race is coming down to the wire baseball fans. So you better buckle your seatbelts, it’s about to get good. With a special thanks to my friend Adam for the recommendation, and in the words of the late George Jones, “The Race is On.”