May 12, 2019 12:07:18 AM
OXFORD -- Mississippi State sophomore Tanner Allen is rolling.
Though he struggled through a midseason slump that saw his batting average dip as low as .228, Allen has found his footing at the dish.
Tied 4-4 in the top of the seventh inning of Saturday's 8-5 win over No. 11 Ole Miss, Allen stepped to the plate with the bases loaded.
With a smooth, left-handed stroke, he smoked the first-pitch he saw from Ole Miss All-American reliever Parker Caracci into centerfield for a 2-RBI, go-ahead single.
Allen was 7-for-8 on the week entering game two against the Rebels -- including a 4-for-4 night against Memphis Wednesday in Starkville.
Two batters after Allen's heroics, sophomore outfielder Rowdey Jordan pushed the Bulldogs' lead to four runs with a two-RBI single into left field.
While the MSU bats woke up late, Ole Miss started the scoring early. The Rebels (32-19, 15-11 SEC) tagged freshman starter JT Ginn for two runs in the first inning off RBI singles from Cole Zabowski and Cooper Johnson.
Ginn allowed three runs, two earned, on four hits and struck out five in 4.2 innings of work.
MSU (41-10, 17-9) responded in the third when sophomore Jordan Westburg battled from an 0-2 count with the bases loaded to work a walk and score junior Dustin Skelton from third.
Rowdy Jordan evened things when he plated senior Elijah MacNamee with a grounder to second base.
Ole Miss retook the lead courtesy of a wild pitch from Barlow. Josh Hall then scored on a fielder's choice to make it 4-2 Rebels.
Junior Gunner Halter got the seventh inning rally going when he roped an RBI double to left-center.
Senior Jake Mangum tied the game at four with an RBI single through the right side, moving his all-time mark against Ole Miss to 26-for-63. He also has hits in all 15 games he has played versus the Rebels.
Ole Miss struck back in the eighth when Zabowski doubled down the right field line to score Tyler Keenan. Sophomore Justin Foscue limited the damage with a nifty relay throw to catch Thomas Dillard trying to score from first base.
With Ginn exiting early, MSU coach Chris Lemonis used six arms out of the bullpen. Freshman Brandon Smith and juniors Trysten Barlow and Jack Eagan each pitched a third of an inning in matchup-based situations. Juniors Colby White and Riley Self tossed one and 1.1 innings of relief, respectively. Self was named the winning pitcher.
Senior Cole Gordon earned his ninth save of the year, inducing a double play in the ninth to close the game.
MSU will go for the series sweep today at noon.
GAME 1: MSU 2, Ole Miss 0
Redshirt junior Ethan Small did Ethan Small-type things in Friday's 2-0 game one win over the Rebels.
Small tossed five innings, allowing no runs on three hits. His 10 strikeouts moved him into fourth on the MSU career strikeout charts. It also marked the ninth time Small has recorded double-digit strikeouts in a game this season.
"He had one tough inning where his pitch count got run up there, but besides that I thought he was really good again," Lemonis said after the game.
The lefty was pulled after a brief fog delay in the middle of the sixth inning. Small said he discussed returning with MSU pitching coach Scott Foxhall but erred on the side of caution.
Senior Jared Liebelt took over in relief. Liebelt gave up just three hits and struck out two in four innings of scoreless ball to earn the save.
He said he didn't expect to finish the game but assumed that if he kept his pitch count low the coaching staff would let him ride it out.
"That's our guy out of the pen," sophomore infielder Tanner Allen said. "If it's a tough situation we're going to Liebelt."
Allen continued his recent tear in the batter's box, plating the both MSU runs. His double over Ole Miss right fielder Anthony Servideo in the third inning opened the scoring.
"I just tried to stay above the ball and I was able to run a ball into the gap and get a big hit there in the (third) inning," he said.
Allen followed the double with an RBI single up the middle to bring junior Gunner Halter home for the second MSU score.
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @bportnoy15.
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