Mississippi State took down VCU 16-4 and will play in the Starkville Regional Championship on Sunday. The Bulldogs averaged 12 runs per game in their last two contests and their offense hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down.
“The last few days you have seen so many good swings in good situations. Jake Gautreau (MSU’s hitting coach) has been great with those guys, especially when it comes to giving them the right scouting reports.” Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis said.
VCU got back into the game in the sixth inning when Michael Haydak hit a two-run jack to make it a 6-4 ball game, but the Bulldogs offense erupted in the next half to put the Rams to bed.
They had five hits and three walks that led to nine runs in the bottom of the sixth and the Bulldogs extended their lead to 15-4. The first three hitters in MSU’s lineup did most of the damage. Rowdey Jordan, Tanner Allen and Kamren James were a combined 9-16 with 7 RBIs, 8 runs scored and a homer.
“When your first three guys are doing that, it frees up the whole lineup,” third baseman Kamren James said. “We’re rolling in the right direction at the right time.”
Lemonis refers to Will Bednar and Christian MacLeod as the team’s aces. MacLeod, who usually starts the first game of the weekend, pitched Saturday this week since Samford (MSU’s first opponent) is loaded with right-handed hitters. The third-year freshman at times, looked dominant. In other stretches, he struggled a bit.
MacLeod started out the game walking Steven Carpenter and followed that up by striking out the side. The third inning started with two walks and a wild pitch, he then struck out the side again. He had 9 K’s in the first four innings.
Back-to-back homers by Brad Cumbest and Kellum Clark extended the Bulldogs’ lead to 5-1. MSU got another run in the sixth after Kellum Clark walked with the bases loaded. With plenty of insurance, Lemonis had MacLeod go back out there (he had thrown 98 pitches at that point). After retiring the first two batters he faced in the inning, he allowed three runs to make it a 6-4 game so Lemonis replaced him with Brandon Smith. MacLeod’s final stat line was 5.2 innings pitched, five hits, four earned runs, three walks and 12 strikeouts. The 123 pitches he threw were by far his most as a Bulldog. The only other time he threw more than 100 was on April 9th at Auburn (102).
“I thought it was a good outing. It wasn’t my best stuff but I was competing and I gave it my all,” MacLeod said. “I struggled with my changeup tonight a bit.”
“Not his perfect start, but once he settled in in the third I thought he was phenomenal. Even when we brought him back out there in the sixth he was really good he just lost some command a bit. He really battled tonight and I am proud of him,” Lemonis said.
State will either play VCU or Campbell in the Starkville Regional Championship at 7 PM on Sunday (weather permitting).