Mississippi State pitcher Peyton Plumlee threw 7-2/3 innings in an 11-5 win over Ole Miss in Oxford. The Bulldogs will enter the final weekend of Southeastern Conference regular season play one game out of first in the SEC West. Photo by: Dispatch file photo
May 13, 2019 10:35:14 AM
OXFORD -- Mississippi State pitcher Peyton Plumlee could hear the cheers.
As he wandered off the mound during No. 5 MSU's 11-5 win over No. 14 Ole Miss, the Bulldog faithful who made the two-hour drive from Starkville to Oxford offered him a standing ovation.
"It was a lot quieter," Plumlee joked in reference to the roar he received after a 6.1 inning, one-hit outing against No. 8 Georgia April 28 in Starkville.
The statistics don't necessarily reflect Plumlee's stellar day on the mound. He finished the afternoon with 7.2 innings pitched, allowing four earned runs -- two of which were credited after he exited in the eighth -- on seven hits.
Sophomore shortstop Jordan Westburg also misplayed two separate balls that would have ended his final inning of work.
No matter. The MSU fans in attendance rejoiced. For the second time in four years, the Bulldogs (42-10, 18-9 SEC) swept the Rebels (32-20, 15-12) in Oxford.
"I grew up an Ole Miss fan and it was a hard decision coming (to MSU)," Plumlee said. "I don't take anything back 'cause you put these colors on, you run out between the lines and you're playing for your state, it doesn't matter where the other school's from. But it does make it a lot sweeter when it's Ole Miss."
With Plumlee's self-proclaimed "rubber" arm pacing the defense, the MSU offense offered plenty of run support.
Juniors Dustin Skelton and Gunner Halter sparked a two-out onslaught in the top of the fourth inning with back-to-back singles. Senior Marshall Gilbert tied the game at 2 with an RBI single to right. That was all for Ole Miss starter Gunnar Hoglund.
Rebels' coach Mike Bianco then turned it over Zack Phillips, who issued two walks with the bases loaded to give MSU a 4-2 lead.
Finally, Max Cioffi was tasked with ending the run, but it didn't help.
A two-run pinch-hit single from freshman Luke Hancock made it 6-2 MSU. Sophomores Justin Foscue and Rowdey Jordan followed Hancock with one and two-run doubles, respectively.
Skelton put the finishing touches on the frame with a 2-RBI single through the left side. He was 3-for-5 on the day.
In 29 minutes, the Bulldogs totaled nine runs on seven hits.
"We kind of get hot like that," MSU coach Chris Lemonis said. "And we have a lot of really good hitters that can build on each other."
Ole Miss opened the scoring Sunday with two outs in the bottom of the first when Thomas Dillard roped a triple to right center to put the Rebels ahead 1-0.
Westburg knotted things up in the third inning with a grounder to second that scored Gilbert.
Ole Miss again took the lead in the bottom half of the frame when Dillard hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in centerfield with the bases loaded.
The Rebels added one run in the bottom of the fourth inning off a throwing error by Westburg.
Jacob Adams and Carl Gindl knocked in the final two Ole Miss runs with RBI singles in the eighth.
Senior Jake Mangum closed the scoring with a double to left-centerfield. Mangum now has hits in all 16 games he has played against Ole Miss. He also made an inning-ending catch at the wall in the eighth that saved two runs when the Rebels were trying to rally.
With the series sweep secured, MSU sits one game behind Arkansas for the Southeastern Conference West Division lead. The Razorbacks hold the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs after taking all three games in Fayetteville April 18-20.
In the larger NCAA tournament picture, the weekend likely secured a national seed for MSU. A three-game set against South Carolina awaits Thursday-Saturday. The Gamecocks are 7-20 in SEC play this season.
MSU will take on Louisiana Tech Tuesday night for its final midweek game of the season. Those Bulldogs defeated No. 15 LSU 12-1 last Tuesday in Baton Rouge.
· Senior Elijah MacNamee tweaked his foot running the bases on a second-inning double. He did not return.
"That foot's been bothering him a little bit over there," Lemonis said. Hopefully it's nothing major and he'll be back here pretty soon."
Ben Portnoy reports on Mississippi State sports for The Dispatch.
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