Past 7 days have seen an offensive explosion for Mississippi State baseball, and both the regular culprits and a few surprising hitters are to blame
A previous article on this website may have said that Mississippi State baseball still has some figuring out to do at the plate…that there were some strides that State batsmen needed to make before State’s hitting matched the eliteness of its pitching. Many thought that, as the weather warms up and the adjustments are made, that State’s bats should wake up sometime in the middle of conference play. But Jake Mangum and the hitters behind him had no intentions of waiting for the weather to heat up to get the bats hot in 2019. For the fifth straight time, Mississippi State recorded eight or more hits in a game and notched double-digit base knocks for the fourth game in the last five tries. The hitting explosion has come from both the usual suspects and a few surprising players and started on March 13thagainst Grambling State, when the Bulldogs scored 18 runs on 18 hits—and only one hit happened before the fourth inning. Elijah MacNamee had two hits, including a grand slam, Tanner Allen broke out of slump with a three-knock night, and Jake Mangum was back to his old tricks by going 4 for 5 on the night. Luke Hancock and Josh Hatcher, who have each started a few games and pinch hit some for State, collected two hits apiece. The Dawgs took that momentum into the Friday night game in Gainesville against the Florida Gators by racking up 10 hits against a top-5 team. The highlight of the evening was a double by Elijah MacNamee in the ninth and a solo homerun for Justin Foscue in the fifth that never got higher than 15 feet above the ground as it screamed out of the ballpark towards left field. Four Bulldogs had multiple hits that night, and Josh Hatcher went 1 for 2 on the evening. The offensive explosion reached the stratosphere in the first game of Saturday’s double-header, when the Diamond Dawgs touched UF for 17 hits, 9 of which went for extra bases. Jake Mangum, Elijah MacNamee, and Tanner Allen each had monster homeruns that are perhaps still traveling. Josh Hatcher was the designated hitter and put up a 2-for-5 day. Dustin Skelton, Jake Mangum, and Elijah MacNamee added three hits each, and 6 of the first 7 hitters in the MSU lineup recorded multiple hits. State scored 10 runs on those 17 hits, and really showed that they can get it done from top to bottom in the lineup against some of the best competition in the country. The one night that wasn’t spectacular was the 4-2 loss to Florida in the final game of the series, but the Dawgs still got 8 hits on the day with multiple very loud outs on balls that nearly escaped the borders of the outfield fence. Josh Hatcher earned a start at left field and had a 2 for 2 night that kept his average above .500 on the year, and was a bright spot in a otherwise average night for Bulldog hitting. All MSU did on Tuesday was log 15 runs on 15 hits against Little Rock on a night where Jake Mangum went 5 for 6 and inched closer to the all-time hits record with his 311thcareer base hit. He mere feet away from the cycle; the homerun he needed to complete it was absent but his one out was a fly ball that was caught on the warning track in a deep part of the Dudy Noble’s left side. Hatcher continued his success at the plate against Little Rock’s pitching and is now 11 for 21 on the year. There are a few ways that hitting could improve, but of course that’s always the case. No lineup is perfect. Rowdey Jordan is still struggling to find his stride as a hitter, but his teammates and coaches are confident that he’ll get in under control. It could be said that tough night Jordan had vs Little Rock shouldn’t have happened: Jake Mangum pointed out that an error by the left fielder prevented what should have been a sacrifice fly from Jordan but instead will count against his average. He also hit a ball extremely hard right to the short stop that could’ve easily been a double. Hatcher seems to be breaking out of a funk that lasted the entire back half of the season last year and, according to sources, even up through fall and spring practice. But Jake Mangum remarked in an interview after last night’s game that Hatcher is reaping the benefits of hard work, and new perspective, and being a great teammate through every scenario. He’s leading the team with a .524 average in limited plate appearances, and may have earned himself a permanent spot in coach Lemonis’s lineup. Dustin Skelton, who had the night off against Little Rock, went 4 for 7 in the two games he played this week as the starting catcher. Tanner Allen is getting back to his old self by batting .391 over the last five games and showing that he belongs in that third spot in the batting order for Mississippi State. Elijah MacNamee was named the SEC Player of the Week and finished the weekend series with a season average of .380. The pieces all seem to be falling into place for Mississippi State, who is ranked 2ndin most of the relevant polls after the win at Florida. Averaging 13.6 hits and 10.2 runs per game over the last week, State should be right in the thick of the national conversation if they maintain numbers even close to those marks.
The Bulldogs travel today to Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, for their first true non-conference road game of the season.