STARKVILLE, Miss. — Tied 6-6 through seven innings, the No. 5 Diamond Dawgs baseball team used a two-RBI single from sophomore Jordan Westburg to take an 8-6 lead on their way to an 11-6 win Friday afternoon at Dudy Noble Field on the opening day of the NCAA Tournament’s Starkville Regional.
State will now play No. 3 seed Central Michigan Chippewas, who topped No. 2 seed Miami on Friday by a score of 6-5. First pitch at Dudy Noble Field is slated for 6 p.m. CT on Saturday.
Offensively, MSU outhit Southern 12-11. Sophomore Rowdey Jordan led the squad with four hits and three RBIs in five plate appearances. Sophomore Josh Hatcher and Westburg were also responsible for multiple RBIs, with Hatcher driving in two runs on 2-for-4 hitting and Westburg driving in a pair on 1-for-3 hitting.
After a scoreless top of the first inning, MSU took a 1-0 lead in the bottom half. Senior Jake Mangum reached first after being hit by a pitch. Westburg then worked a walk to put two base runners on. A flyout moved moved Mangum to third before he scored on an RBI groundout from senior Elijah MacNamee.
After a quick two outs in the top of the third, sophomore Javeyan Williams singled before moving to second on a throwing error. Senior Tyler LaPorte then brought him home with an RBI single through the left side to tie things up at 1-1. State would regain a one-run lead in the bottom half of the third after Westburg worked a one-out walk, stole second and third, and scored on an RBI double from sophomore Justin Foscue.
The Dawgs saw their lead diminish in the fourth inning when the Jaguars plated three runs on three hits. Senior Ashanti Wheatley led off the inning with a single to left center. He then stole second and third before scoring on an RBI single from senior Bobby Johnson. A bases loaded walk and sacrifice fly scored Southern’s final two runs of the inning to give the Jaguars a 4-2 lead.
The back-and-forth game then saw the Dawgs compile a four-run fifth inning to give MSU a 6-4 lead. Sophomore Tanner Allen led the inning off with a single. After a lineout, back-to-back singles from Foscue and junior Dustin Skelton scored Allen. An RBI double from Jordan then plated Foscue before two more runners came across to score on a two-RBI double from Hatcher.
A two-run home run to left field in the seventh inning from Southern’s Johnny Johnson knotted things up at 6-6. The bottom half of the seventh inning began with Jordan singling to right field before a fielder’s choice and throwing error allowed Hatcher to reach first base. Also on the play, Jordan managed to move up to second base safely. A sacrifice bunt moved both runners up before Mangum was intentionally walked to load the bases. Westburg then came through with his clutch two-RBI single before Mangum scored on a wild pitch to give State a 9-6 lead.
MSU would add two insurance runs when Jordan smacked a two-run home run over the right field fence to give the Dawgs the 11-6 win.
Freshman right-hander JT Ginn allowed one unearned run on three hits in three innings of work. He was then relived by freshman Brandon Smith, who allowed three runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning.
Senior Jared Liebelt (2-0) earned the win in relief, as he allowed two runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He surrendered one walk and struck out two. Graduate Student Cole Gordon then earned the save after tossing two scoreless innings.
Senior Connor Whalen (5-1) was charged with the Jaguar loss after allowing five runs—three earned—on five hits. He struck out one batter and walked one batter.