STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - It is one step at a time for the No. 5 Mississippi State baseball program and on Saturday (June 1), the program took another step towards the ultimate goal with a 7-2 victory over Central Michigan at Dudy Noble Field in front of the eight-largest crowd to ever watch an NCAA Regional game.
The 11,511 fans that packed the "New Dude" were treated to some early offense, as Mississippi State (48-13) opened the scoring with four runs in the first inning. After the Diamond Dawgs added two in the top of the third inning – MSU was the visiting team – Central Michigan (47-13) would get a pair of runs back in the sixth. State added a single run in the ninth on sophomore Tanner Allen's seventh home run of the season.
While the offense came early, it was business as usual for redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ethan Small (9-2). The left hander threw six innings and allowed two runs on five hits to collect the win. He walked three batters and posted his 11th double-digit strikeout game of the season with 10 Ks.
Small moved his season total to 160, which is No. 2 in MSU single-season history, and he jumped 10 spots on the Southeastern Conference single-season list into No. 9. On the night, Small passed former SEC student-athletes like Luke Hochevar (Tennessee; 154), David Price (Vanderbilt; 155) and Casey Mize (Auburn; 156).
He also joined Eric DuBose (428; 1995-97) and Jeff Brantley (364; 1982-85) as the only MSU pitchers to record 300 career strikeouts, ending the night with 302 career punchouts.
Small, along with junior Riley Self, junior Colby White and graduate student Cole Gordon combined to strike out 13 Central Michigan hitters and move MSU's season total to a program-record 661. The 2019 edition moved past the 1997 squad that struck out 655 batters.
Now, to the offense.
Allen led a 16-hit attack with a 4-for-5 night at the plate, while sophomore Josh Hatcher went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. Sophomore Justin Foscue, sophomore Rowdey Jordan and junior Dustin Skelton each chipped in two hits. Senior Elijah MacNamee drove in two RBIs with a double on the night.
Head Coach Chris Lemonis
On the atmosphere
"[What a] Great atmosphere for college baseball tonight. From the very first pitch, it was electric in the ballpark. We were able to jump out to a lead. Then, you have one of the best pitchers in college baseball
[Ethan Small] on the mound to pitch for you. He pitched great tonight, and we were able to hold on there at the end for a little bit."
Pack The Dude – The 11,511 fans in attendance at Saturday's game mark the largest NCAA Regional crowd and 22nd largest overall crowd in program history. It also marks the eighth 10,000-plus crowd of the 2019 campaign, equaling the school-record mark of the 2016 squad. The total is also the eighth largest NCAA Regional Crowd in NCAA history.
Ethan Small – Struck out 10 to become the third MSU pitcher to amass 300-plus strikeouts in a career, throwing six innings and allowing just two runs to collect the win. Moved his season total to 160 strikeouts, pushing him all the way into No. 9 on the Southeastern Conference's single-season list.
Tanner Allen – Posted a 4-for-5 night at the plate with two runs scored and one RBI.
Two RBI Nights – The trio of Josh Hatcher, Elijah MacNamee and Rowdey Jordan all posted two RBIs in the game.
5 Through 8 – Mississippi State's 5-8 hitters in tonight's lineup went 9-for-17 with four runs scored and four RBIs.
Jason Sullivan – Went 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs.
Zavier Warren – Was 1-for-1 with three walks and a run scored.
Seven-straight hits following a leadoff ground out produced four runs and an early lead for MSU. Jordan Westburg started off the inning with a one-out single and Tanner Allen followed with a base hit. Elijah MacNamee scored both runners with a double down the right-field line but was caught straying off of second for the second out of the inning. Justin Foscue and Dustin Skelton followed with base hits, before Rowdey Jordan and Josh Hatcher posted RBI singles.
Mississippi State 4, Central Michigan 0
State added two more runs with five-straight hits to start the inning. Foscue and Skelton started the inning with back-to-back singles, before back-to-back RBI singles from Jordan and Hatcher pushed MSU's lead to six runs.
Mississippi State 6, Central Michigan 0
Ethan Small's only blip on an otherwise outstanding evening on the mound came with two outs in the sixth inning. A leadoff single by Zavier Warren was followed by a flyout and strikeout, before Jason Sullivan hit his second home run of the season – a two-run shot – to right field.
Mississippi State 6, Central Michigan 2
Tanner Allen hit his seventh home run of the season down the right-field line to lead off the inning.
Mississippi State 7, Central Michigan 2
Mississippi State will await the winner of Miami (Fla.)/Central Michigan at 8 p.m. on Sunday, June 2. UM and CMU will meet at 2 p.m. Television/Streaming information will be distributed by ESPN and the NCAA on Sunday morning.
The Diamond Dawgs will be the home team in the case that Central Michigan wins the first game of the day but will be the visitors if the Hurricanes claim game one of the day. Either way, State will remain in the third-base dugout.