Outfielder Goes Flawless 3.0; State Sets Steals Record with Ten Thefts; Rooker Knocks Three Doubles

His pitching plan was ultra-sophisticated stuff, clearly. “Just throw it over the plate,” Jake Mangum said. “Throw strikes. I’m just out there having fun.”

Having fun and getting a win, too. The regular centerfielder turned starting pitcher for an evening, and Mangum’s three flawless innings started Mississippi State towards a 11-8 midweek win over Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

Mangum had tossed a bit Sunday to close a win over South Alabama. This was different. With the Bulldog pitching roster ravaged by injuries and strained by an extended weekend, and the upcoming opening SEC weekend at Arkansas, some new starter was needed.

Monday evening, sophomore Mangum got the word. “It was cool. The first time I’ve done that since MRA, the state championship game.”

Cool didn’t describe the evening with 39 degrees showing as Mangum threw his first pitch. First out of just 44 needed to take care of the minimum number of Lions in 3.0 innings with nobody reaching. Mangum struck out five in the process. “Just throw strikes,” he said.

“Obviously Jake was outstanding,” Coach Andy Cannizaro said. “Three scoreless innings, up to 92 mph from the left side with a breaking ball.”

Mangum (1-0) picked up the win by designation, and with the aid of a Bulldog offense that put up nine of the runs in those same three frames. However, five more MSU moundsmen ended up working. Some were planned; others by necessity as the bullpen let Pine Bluff put together a pair of four-run frames.

In fact, the tying Lion was at the plate in the top of the ninth, their order batting around in the last chance with runners on third and first bases. RHP Spencer Price was rushed into action to close it out by grounding-out Aderly Perez. Price got his fourth save in the process.

When Mississippi State jumped on Lion starter Antoine Lustter for seven of the runs in the first two innings there seemed no notion any saving would be needed. SS Ryan Gridley made it a fast 3-0 lead in the first inning as he slugged his third homer of the season with Mangum and 3B Luke Alexander on bases. C Dustin Skelton added a RBI in that frame with his single scoring 2B Cody Brown.

In the second turn RF Brent Rooker singled in Alexander, and LF Brant Blaylock doubled in two more. CF Tanner Poole’s solo shot to lead off the third was followed by Rooker with a RBI-double. This was off Lion reliever Chris Phelps who would go the remaining 6.0 innings and allow ‘only’ four runs on six hits.

UAPB took advantage of Mangum picking up his centerfielder’s glove and RHP Andrew Mahoney taking over. He set up the inning with a plunking, walk, and single, so Jordan Knox could clean the bags with his three-run double. Knox himself scored on steal/error as Skelton threw into leftfield.

Skelton redeemed that run with his RBI-single plating Blaylock. In the State sixth a wild pitch scored Blaylock again for the 11-4 lead.

RHP Ryan Cyr threw 3.0 scoreless innings to hold that margin into the ninth, before handing the ball to LHP Trysten Barlow. Four of the six Lions he faced reached with two hits, walk and plunking, and all would score Jaquese Moore doubled in two, and with RHP Parker Ford taking over Knox’s grounder was errored into two more runs.

State ended up with a dozen hits, all in the first six innings. Rooker was 3-of-5 with three doubles, a RBI and run scored; while Blaylock, Skelton, and Poole all had a pair of hits. Knox led the Lions with three of their ten hits. Only six Bulldog runs were earned as UAPB committed six errors. State fielding wasn’t crisp either with a pair of errors charged.

What did stand out was Bulldog baserunning. The night saw a program record with ten stolen bases, three by Rooker and two each for Alexander and Blaylock. State was running even with the big lead, and if it looked like piling-on at the time events showed the wisdom of staying aggressive.

With a fifth win in four game-days, around a Saturday washout, the Bulldogs are 11-6 going into SEC season against another program from Arkansas. Conference play opens with a weekend against the Razorbacks, and Cannizaro has already set LHP Konnor Pilkington and RHP Peyton Plumlee to start the first two contests.

The coach will meet with media Wednesday as well to update some health situations ahead of the Thursday departure. Cannizaro did have some good news, reporting RHP Riley Self’s sore right arm has responded to treatment and the reliever threw a practice session Tuesday with no problems. C Josh Lovelady is also expected now to be available, a relief to freshman Skelton has had had to catch the last 54 innings.

Still of concern are 2B Hunter Stovall (hamstring) and RHP Ryan Rigby (groin).

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