COLUMBIA, Mo. — Luke Hancock motored around first base without slowing down.
The Mississippi State first baseman had just ended an 0-for-4 night with a single placed perfectly down the third-base line in the seventh inning, but Hancock wanted more.
Missouri left fielder Trevor Austin threw him out at second base.
But it was a chance Hancock and the Bulldogs were more than willing to take.
Hancock was the final Mississippi State starter to record a hit Friday at Missouri as the Bulldogs (25-18, 9-10 Southeastern Conference) pounded out a season-high 20 hits and beat the Tigers (22-17, 5-14 SEC) by a score of 13-4 at Taylor Stadium.
“I thought we pitched well, I thought we defended well, and then offensively, from the very first hitter of the game, I just thought we were locked in and swung it well,” MSU coach Chris Lemonis said.
Mississippi State opened things up by the fifth inning in Columbia, scoring early and often to win the series opener. The Bulldogs scored in six different innings, including four multi-run frames, in the blowout victory.
Second baseman RJ Yeager drove in five runs in the first five innings, smacking two home runs as MSU got out to an early lead. Yeager led off with a solo home run, added an RBI double in the second, socked a two-run homer in the fourth and brought home a run on a groundout in the fifth.
Yeager took Tony Neubeck’s second pitch of the game over the wall in left center field, hitting a fly ball that just kept carrying out of the park.
“When somebody does that, it kind of loosens everybody up because everybody can go out there and just relax a little bit and have fun and hit and pitch and play defense,” Clark said.
Yeager paced a Bulldogs team apparently airing out its frustrations after countless deep fly balls died in the Trustmark Park outfield against Ole Miss in Tuesday’s Governor’s Cup loss. MSU hit the ball hard all over Simmons Field — particularly the left side — all night Friday.
Kamren James had four hits for the Bulldogs, including a solo home run in the eighth inning. Yeager, Logan Tanner, Hunter Hines and Kellum Clark all had three hits.
Clark drove in three runs as the Bulldogs extended their lead late, pushing the advantage to double digits with a two-run double in the seventh inning and homering in the eighth.
MSU provided more than enough offense for starter Brandon Smith, who suppressed the Tigers’ bats in an effective start of 7 1/3 innings — a career-high mark. Smith struck out eight batters and scattered nine hits throughout the night.
Clark credited Smith for another strong performance, saying the Bulldogs’ big game “started with the pitching.” Yeager was similarly complimentary of the senior right-hander, who stepped into the rotation against Auburn and hasn’t looked back.
“He’s what you want in a Friday night starter,” Yeager said of Smith. “Having a performance like that, it’s tough to lose.”
Smith was charged with three runs, but two came in the eighth inning as Missouri cut into the deficit late. Smith allowed a solo home run to Luke Mann before reliever Drew Talley allowed a sac fly to Ross Lovich, with the run charged to Smith.
Lovich took Smith deep for a home run in the fifth inning. Pinch hitter Justin Colon homered off Talley in the ninth.
But Talley was the only reliever MSU had to use, a coup for the Bulldogs with their key bullpen arms rested for the remainder of the series.
“It just sets the tone for the weekend,” Lemonis said. “It sets up all your pitching. Hopefully all the older guys will come out and pitch something very similar. We didn’t have to use a lot of bullpen tonight.”
Mississippi State can also hope for similar offensive performances — consistent contests if not 20-hit games — against the Tigers.
“We’re just clicking right now, and hopefully we keep it going,” Yeager said.
Theo DeRosa reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @Theo_DeRosa.