With their win on Saturday, the Mississippi State Bulldogs positioned themselves to make history and host a super regional in Starkville for the first time since 2007. After a thrilling 9-5 victory over SEMO on Friday, the Bulldogs advanced in the winner's bracket to face the Cal State Fullerton Titans, a perennial power out of the Big West Conference.
Austin Sexton, Mississippi State's Saturday starter during the regular season, earned the start and the win on the mound. Sexton's performance was clutch for the Bulldogs in what was largely a pitching duel. Sexton gave up only 1 earned run on 5 hits and 1 walk in his 6.1 innings pitched. Blake Smith earned the save for the Dawgs, K'ing the entire Titan 8th and allowing no hits or runs.
On the mound for the Titans, Colton Eastman got the start and the loss. Eastman pitched 6.2 innings and gave up 3 runs on 8 hits. Eastman was pulled off the mound in the Bulldog 7th, shortly after giving up 2 critical runs. Chad Hockin came in as relief for the Titans, only to give up another run to the Dogs in the 8th. Maxwell Gibbs finished the game on the mound for the Titans.
Saturday's offensive performance by the Bulldogs was a clinic in teamwork, with 8 out of the 9 hitters in the lineup cranking at least one base hit in the game. Jake Mangum led the game at the plate (as usual), with 2 hits and an RBI. The Dawgs scored the first run of the game in the 3rd, after a single by John Holland and a double by Jack Kruger. Holland scored on an RBI fielder's choice by Nathaniel Lowe.
The Bulldog bats really woke up in the 7th. Brent Rooker opened the inning with a leadoff double, and advanced to third with the aid of a sacrifice bunt by Reid Humphreys. Ryan Gridley singled to send Rooker home and plate the first of the 2 Bulldog runs in the inning. After Gridley advanced to second on a wild pitch, Mangum came to the plate to record an RBI single and drive Gridley home.
The Bulldogs scored their final run the 8th, after a throwing error and a wild pitch by Fullerton allowed Nathaniel Lowe to advance to second with no outs. Jacob Robson doubled to notch the RBI and send Lowe home.
Not only did the Dawgs pick up the thrilling victory, the crowd Dudy Noble came alive with the prospect of even more postseason baseball in Starkville. Jake Mangum describes the electric environment at the Dude:
Jake Mangum on DNF crowd this evening: "Whenever Gavin made that play, I got goosebumps. It was the loudest game I've ever been in."— Robby Donoho (@RobbyDonoho) June 5, 2016
State fans, our Diamond Dawgs have a chance to make history. We need to come out loud and proud tomorrow as our boys take on the winner of Cal State Fullerton and Louisiana Tech at 6:30 PM central time. If you can't make it to the game in person, ESPN will broadcast it on the WatchESPN app.