STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - It was almost exactly how you would draw it up. While the No. 2 Mississippi State baseball program fell behind early on Thursday (March 28) night, it scored six-straight runs, got 10 strikeouts from redshirt-junior starting pitcher Ethan Small and a solid effort from three bullpen arms helped the series-opening win, 6-5, over No. 17 LSU at Dudy Noble Field.
With the tandem of Tom Hart and Kyle Peterson calling the game from the Left Field Lofts on ESPNU, Small (3-0) posted his fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season for MSU (24-3, 5-2 SEC). With 10 strikeouts, the left hander held the LSU (17-9, 4-3 SEC) to just two runs on three hits.
Offensively, it was the longball that did most of the talking on Thursday night. Sophomore Justin Foscue posted his first-career multi-home run game with a three-run shot to left field in the third to open the scoring for MSU, before hitting the second of back-to-back home runs in the fifth inning. Foscue followed a solo home run by senior Elijah MacNamee in the fifth, for what proved to be the game-winning run.
Four Diamond Dawgs posted multi-hit games, with sophomores Josh Hatcher, Jordan Westburg and Foscue joining junior Dustin Skelton with three hits. MacNamee and Westburg each plated one RBI, while Foscue added the other four RBIs for MSU.
The three bullpen arms piled up seven strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. The trio of redshirt-junior Trysten Barlow and, seniors Jared Liebelt and Cole Gordon combined to allow six hits and three runs in 1 1/3 of work apiece. Gordon picked up his seventh save of the season by retiring three of the four batters he faced at the plate, with the game ending on a caught stealing at second base.
Head Coach Chris Lemonis
On Ethan Small
"Just the command. His command is always so good, and he really threw that breaking ball for strikes tonight. He hadn't had to use it a lot, but with all these left-handed hitters, he commanded his breaking ball and his changeup. The bottom of the fifth was a long inning for us with two video replays, it wore on him a little bit, so we got him out a little early tonight, but I thought he was really good."
On why the bullpen was so good
"They all had good stuff. They've been through the war. I have a fifth-year senior and two seniors. It's older, mature guys who've had good years. They're confident, and they're pitching well. Even [Jared] Liebelt, I saw him when I was walking in. I said, 'hey man shake it off and be ready to go tomorrow.' He said, 'Hey coach they hit a couple of good pitches.' If that happens to a freshman, his head is down, but these older guys, they've just been here too long. They understand there are good hitters in the box. I thought they all had great stuff. Sometimes if they hit us, they hit us. I worry more when we're not throwing strikes and not showing poise on the mound."
Ethan Small – Posted his fifth double-digit strikeout game of the season and sixth of his career. Threw five innings and allowed two runs on three hits to earn his third win of the season. Also walked four batters.
Justin Foscue – Posted his first-career multi-home run game and drove in four of MSU's six runs. Was 2-for-4 with two runs scored.
Jordan Westburg – Collected multiple extra-base hits for the fourth-straight game and drove in one RBI.
Elijah MacNamee – Moved his reached base streak to 22 games by reaching base three times. Hit his fourth home run of the season and scored twice.
Great Crowd – The 9,797 fans in the stands on Thursday night marked the largest Thursday night crowd in program history. The previous best was 7,628 against LSU on May 18, 2017.
Daniel Cabrera – Opened the scoring with a two-run home run. Also singled and scored in the game.
CJ Willis – Drove in a run with a pinch-hit double in the eighth inning.
Chris Reid – Drove in a pair of runs after entering as a defensive replacement. Singled twice and walked.
After Ethan Small struck out the first two batters of the inning, before a walk to Antoine Duplantis. Following the walk, Daniel Cabrera hit a two-run home run to right field.
LSU 2, Mississippi State 0
The Diamond Dawgs got on the board with a pair of extra base hits and a hit-by-pitch. Jake Mangum opened the frame with a double, before Elijah MacNamee was hit by a pitch with two outs. Justin Foscue followed with his eighth home run of the season to left field.
Mississippi State 3, LSU 2
Josh Hatcher got things started with a leadoff single and moved to second on a Gunner Halter sacrifice. Westburg brought him home with a two-out, RBI double.
Mississippi State 4, LSU 2
Back-to-back home runs started the frame, as MacNamee and Foscue each deposited baseballs over the left-field fence to push MSU ahead by four.
Mississippi State 6, LSU 2
Singles from Cabrera and Giovanni DiGiacomo started the inning before a pair of groundouts scored the first run. A double from pinch hitter CJ Willis made it a 6-4 game, before Chris Reid singled to push across LSU's fifth run of the game. Cole Gordon entered and retired the final batter of the frame to preserve the lead.
Mississippi State 6, LSU 5
Mississippi State and LSU continue its series at 6 p.m. on Friday, March 29, with the game airing on the SEC Network. The series will conclude at 2 p.m. on Saturday, March 30.