The Diamond Dogs indeed were loose and ready to use bats for the designed purpose. After a 90-minute rain delay of an already-revised start time, Mississippi State loosed a 20-hit barrage on Tennessee for a 14-4 victory. The Bulldogs scored 13 of their runs in the first four innings and with the win clinched the weekend series.
“Obviously you could tell with the score they stayed focused and were ready to play after that long delay,” Coach Cannizaro said. “A season-high in runs, a season-high in hits. Just a total team effort.”
The Bulldogs (14-10, 2-3 SEC) had taken Friday with a 5-4 comeback. The only comebacks required Saturday were repeated returns to the plate for another swing, hit, RBI, etc. Ten Dogs had a base hit, six of them multiple hits in a complete change of offensive fortune.
“We’ve been saying all year how many one-run losses can we have? It’s going to click,” CF Jake Mangum said. “And tonight you saw it click.”
Mangum certainly clicked, going 4-of-5 with five RBI and two runs scored. His second-inning double drove in a pair which really got the rout rolling. He was immediately followed by a huge home run from 1B Brent Rooker to make it a 5-0 margin after just two turns.
“It was the highest pop-fly I’ve ever seen in my life,” Mangum said of the big fly well past the second row of left field rigs. “His hang time was probably 12 seconds.” Rooker finished 3-of-5, missing the cycle by failing to hit a double, with the two RBI and scoring three times.
Right behind them #3 batter SS Ryan Gridley was 4-of-5 too. “We had 11 hits by the first three guys in the order, they’re special players,” Cannizaro said.
All the offense made an easier evening’s work for RHP Peyton Plumlee. The lead-up hadn’t been easy as Mississippi State never announced him as game-two starter until game day. Cannizaro and pitching coach Gary Henderson did think they would stay with Plumlee but needed a late-week bullpen session to settle it.
“We wanted to see his attention span, how his fastball command was, his secondary stuff,” Cannizaro said. “He earned the right to pitch tonight.” Not today, tonight. State had already moved the scheduled 1:30 game to 6:30 for expected weather. More rains delayed it until just after 8:00.
Which, Plumlee said, worked to his benefit. “I just relaxed, took a deep breath. I wasn’t rushed or anything, I had time to stretch out and get loose.” Plumlee then put up 6.0 complete innings which if not for an error to open the last frame should have been a shutout stint.
As it was Plumlee (3-1) got the win with a lone run on five hits, walking one and striking out six. He only had to pitch an inning without a lead, and struck out three of the four Volunteers faced in his first.
“We scored early and I just tried to do my thing, fill the zone up and make them put the ball in play. I was lucky enough to have my location and pound away, away with them.” Plumlee did say his forearm had some early soreness, which didn’t show in the line score as Tennessee did not hit him until the third with a two-out single.
Tennessee starter Zach Linginfelter (0-2) was much less successful. He was a bit fortunate allowing just one run in his first inning after three-straight Bulldog hits to lead off. 2B Cody Brown plated Mangum with a sacrifice fly, before a double-steal failed with Rooker tagged short of third base to end this threat.
The second inning almost didn’t blow-up on Linginfelter either. With two on and two out he got two strikes ahead of Mangum. The Bulldog drove the third strike over leftfielder Matt Waldren for the two-run two-bagger. Rooker also went over Waldren, just a whole lot farther for his seventh homer of the season.
Daniel Vasquez took over from Linginfelter, which is not to say succeeded him. In his 1.0 total inning the Vol righty was shelled for six hits and five runs. Two of those scores were on a unique sacrifice fly by Mangum.
His drive to center-left was caught on a brilliant lunging catch by Dom Thornton. But he landed hard and a long way from the plate where not only did 3B Harrison Bragg score from third but C Josh Lovelady came all the way in from second. Rooker tripled and was balked-in by righthander Connor Darling for the 10-0 margin.
Darling stayed in for the Bulldog fourth where doubled-in one run and Lovelady singled in two more. Tennessee would use three more arms in the evening, with Andrew Schultz taking the last run. New DH Hunter Vansau drove in Rooker for a 14-3 lead at the time.
Plumlee was excused after the sixth for RHP Trey Jolley to work 2.1 turns. His seventh inning was not pretty, with some errors by the Dog defense moving runners up and Jolley being called for consecutive balks by the second base umpire. Each gave Tennessee a free run.
The Vols added a final run in their ninth on a leadoff double by Brandon Chinea and RBI-single from Jordan Rogers. RHP Ryan Rigby, who was not expected to throw this weekend at all, was called on to record the last out by fanning Andre Lipcius.
Tennessee finished with nine hits, eight of them singles, against eleven strikeouts. This was after 14 fannings Friday.
Weather should clear out overnight with fine Sunday conditions for the 1:30 start. Cannizaro had not named a starter as of midnight, nor had Tennessee.
“We’ve got a chance to do something really special tomorrow,” Cannizaro said. “We’ve got a quick turnaround and I want our guys ready match Tennessee’s energy and effort level.”
Taking the series is a good response to losing three in last weekend’s opening SEC action. Just not for Mangum, not yet. “We need a sweep.”