Coach John Cohen's club had different ideas as the Bulldog offense pounded out 11 hits and scored 12 runs in a game one win that keeps Mississippi State firmly in the race for the SEC Western division crown. Mississippi State went to work quickly with Jake Mangum grounding Alabama starter Geoffrey Bramblett's initial offering into left field for a game opening single. Mangum would later score on a Reid Humphreys sacrifice fly to right field to give the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead. Alabama would answer back in their half of the first as Dakota Hudson had trouble finding the zone. A lead off single, followed by a four pitch walk had the Tide in business with no outs. The payoff came on a single from Chandler Taylor and suddenly it was 2-1 Alabama.
The Bulldogs would counter in the third as Mangum tripled into right center driving home John Holland, who entered the game after a Hunter Stovall injury following a collision at first. Stovall would reach base safely, but leave the game with assistance from the training staff. Mangum would later score when an Alabama throw down to second bounced into center field sending Mangum in for the Bulldog's third run. Kruger would go to third on that play and score later in the frame on a Nathaniel Lowe ground out to the right side. Gavin Collins would later hit his team leading 8th home run following a Humphreys free pass and the Bulldog lead swelled to four runs at 6-2.
"And we scored runs early without a bunch of hits," Coach John Cohen said.
Alabama would creep back in it adding a run in the 4th, 5th and 6th to cut the Bulldog lead to 6-5. With the tying run at third and go ahead and run at second, Bulldog reliever Blake Smith would enter the game and get Alabama lead off hitter Hunter Webb on a check swing and center fielder Georgie Salem to ground out to Bulldog Lowe to end the Tide threat.
"Our relief pitching, especially from Smith, was good," Cohen said. "He got his breaking ball in the strike zone."
Alabama lefty reliever Jon Keller had kept the Bulldogs at bay since entering the game, but a two out hit from Jack Kruger proved to be a bit of a fire starter. Pitching from the stretch, Keller walked Lowe and then threw a pick off attempt wide. As the ball found the right field apron, Kruger rounded third and scored giving the Bulldogs a much needed insurance run, 7-5.
Smith was able to get a goose egg in the Alabama 7th despite issuing a one out walk. A pop up to second and a swinging K of Cody Henry put the Bulldogs back at the dish looking for more insurance. The Bulldogs would get two men one with just one out in the top of 8, but Keller was able to get both Cody Brown and Holland looking to strand both State runners. In the bottom half, Smith was outstanding keeping Alabama hitters off balance and the base paths. Some huge Maroon and White runs of insurance came in the top of the 9th inning off of the bat of Lowe who chased home Mangum and Kruger.
That back up the box blaster made it 9-5 State. State would add three more in the inning with the big blow coming on a Brent Rooker home run that cleared the net in left field. Staked to a 12-5 lead, Smith did what he did all night long and that was get Alabama out. Alabama went quietly in the 9th and the Mississippi State traveling party exploded on the final out.
Bulldog ace Dakota Hudson was able to work five complete innings. He didn't dominate and gave up hits and some runs, though an outfield error made for un-earned Tide scores at Hudson's expense. “His stuff was in-and-out," Cohen said. "There were times he was trying to figure out his delivery. He kept competing. Thank goodness we can still win ball games when a guy like that doesn’t pitch as well as he can.”
Mississippi State improved their record to 29-13-1 and 11-8 in the SEC, while Alabama fell to 24-19 and 9-10. Game two is set for 7 PM on Friday. Mississippi State will send RHP Austin Sexton (4-2, 3.62) to the mound. Alabama will counter with RHP Jake Walters (4-3, 1.89)