MSU baseball edged by Vanderbilt

Staff Writer

Mississippi State had its best offensive game of the weekend at Dudy Noble Field on Sunday.

It still wasn't quite enough for the Bulldogs to beat the Vanderbilt Commodores and prevent them from being swept in the opening Southeastern Conference series.

MSU had three runs on six hits, but Vanderbilt did one better and left Starkville with a 4-3 victory.

After dropping 5-0 and 10-1 games to Vanderbilt on Friday and Saturday, State interim head baseball coach Gary Henderson saw progress on Sunday.

“We loosened up a little bit, took advantage of some guys on base and drove them in,” Henderson said. “It was certainly better. To push three runs across after where we had been, I thought it was a positive day for our kids.”

Jake Mangum got the Bulldogs started in the first inning with a single and he came home on a sacrifice fly by Tanner Allen. After getting a double in the third inning, Mangum scored again on a wild pitch to give MSU its 2-0 lead.

The Commodores used two hits and an error by the Bulldogs to score all four of their runs in the fifth to take a 4-2 advantage.

State answered with one run on the sixth when Allen walked and scored on a pinch-hit single by Jordan Westburg. That’s all the Bulldogs could manage as they left one runner on base in the seventh and one more in the ninth.

Mangum had the only multiple hit day for MSU and had the only extra base hit with his double and single. Allen, Westburg, Tanner Poole and Luke Alexander had one single each.

Pitcher Jacob Billingsley had some ups and downs during his latest start for the Bulldogs a quality start. Through 4.1 innings, he gave up three runs on two hits with four walks and five strikeouts.

“I thought Jacob did a nice job, not super sharp, but I thought competitive,” Henderson said. “When the game demanded he make a couple of pitches, he did to get out of some jams. He had 44 pitches after two innings and when you have that many, unless you start having some single digit innings, it’s going to cut into how long the outing is and that’s what happened there.

“I think he could have gotten through the fifth, but he had enough pitches at that time. I think he got up to 92 so from that spot I thought it was a good move to bring J.P. (France) in.”

France, Zach Neff and Blake Smith worked in relief for MSU.

The Bulldogs now have a 10-10 record overall after losing their first three SEC games of the season. They left the field encouraged that the situation had improved.

“It felt better in (the dugout),” Billingsley said. “Obviously it wasn’t the result we wanted, but we played more together.”

MSU continues a homestand in the midweek against Alcorn State Tuesday and Texas Southern on Wednesday.