NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVA/MSU Athletics) – For the third-straight season, Mississippi State is two wins from the College World Series and led by a resilient core, the Road To Omaha now goes through the Vanderbilt and the Nashville Super Regional.
The Diamond Dawgs (35-26) will take on the Commodores (34-25) in a rematch of a Southeastern Conference series from earlier in the season. The best-of-three series will commence on Friday at 7 p.m. CT on ESPN2, while game two is set for Saturday at 8:30 p.m. CT on ESPN. If the two sides split the first two games, a series-deciding game three will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m. CT and will air on ESPN2.
Last weekend, MSU became the 23rd team to in the current 64-team NCAA Tournament format to win a regional after dropping the opener. State is also the first team to accomplish the feat in back-to-back seasons, meaning the Diamond Dawgs have won eight-straight regional elimination games.
The winner of the Nashville Super Regional will secure a spot in the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska (June 16-27).
NCAA Tournament Bracket | Game Notes | Live Stats
Friday: MSU LHP Ethan Small (5-3, 2.94 ERA) vs. VU RHP Drake Fellows (7-4, 3.38 ERA)
Saturday: MSU LHP Konnor Pilkington (2-6, 4.61 ERA) vs. VU TBA
Sunday: MSU RHP Jacob Billingsley (5-3, 5.05 ERA) vs. VU TBA
LAST TIME OUT
After having dropped the Tallahassee Regional opener to Oklahoma by a score of 20-10, State outscored opponents by a combined 33-16 in four elimination games to battle back from the losers bracket for the second-straight year.
Down to the final strike of the season on June 2 vs. Florida State, Elijah MacNamee’s three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth lifted MSU to a thrilling walk-off win that extended the season.
MacNamee went on to be named the regional’s Most Outstanding Player, while JP France, Rowdey Jordan, Jake Mangum and Dustin Skelton joined MacNamee on the Tallahassee Regional All-Tournament Team.
STATE VS. THE COMMODORES
State leads the all-time series 68-48-2 and holds a 28-23 advantage over the Commodores in games played in Nashville. The Diamond Dawgs were victims of a three-game sweep earlier this season in Starkville (March 16-18). The last time the two sides met in Nashville was during the 2016 season, with MSU having taken two of three from Vanderbilt.
NEED TO KNOW
· In 23 of State’s 35 wins thus far, opponents have been held to four runs or less. In four of the remaining 12, opponents scored just five runs.
· The Diamond Dawgs have 19 comeback wins on the year (35 wins total), seven of which came in the month of March, eight in April (three against Ole Miss and two against Arkansas) and two in May (vs. No. 1 Florida and two in the Tallahassee Regional). In 2017, 25 of State’s 40 wins were come-from-behind victories.
· By going 6-1 against Arkansas and Ole Miss in April and 3-0 vs. Florida and 1-0 vs. Florida State in May, State improved to 10-1 on the year against Top 5 teams and has tallied 16 wins against ranked opponents this season.
· State has come on strong after a 14-15 start and 2-7 in SEC play on March 31. Since April 1, MSU is 21-11 overall and finished the regular season 13-8 in conference play.
· Holding a RPI of 92 on April 1, State climbed 64 spots to No. 28 in just under two months by posting a 10-6 mark in the month of April and a 7-4 record in May to close the regular season. 12 of those wins came against ranked teams, nine against teams ranked in the top five and eight against top-three teams.
· Considering its opposition for the 2018 season entering the NCAA Tournament, the Diamond Dawgs played the sixth-toughest schedule in all of Division I baseball with a winning percentage of .595 (1818-1239-1) on the year.
· This marks the second time State reached the NCAA Tournament after starting the season 0-3, with the 1996 Diamond Dawgs having first accomplished the feat at 38-24, 17-13 SEC.
· MSU is 27-10 when holding opponents to five or less runs, 14-2 when holding others to two or less runs and 8-16 when allowing six or more runs. State is also 25-2 when scoring six or more runs, 20-6 when scoring first and 15-4 when having scored in the first inning.
· In the 2016, 2017 and 2018 NCAA Regionals combined, State posted a .312 average at the plate. While opponents were .233 against MSU pitching.
· Jake Mangum is hitting .351 (26-for-74) in his NCAA Tournament career with three doubles, two home runs, 10 RBIs and 11 runs scored.
· Following the conclusion of the regular season, Tanner Allen was named Freshman All-SEC at first base and junior Jake Mangum was named First Team All-SEC and SEC All-Defensive team.
· Over the last 10 games, the bats have been hot as six different Bulldogs are averaging .300 or better at the plate during that stretch (Dustin Skelton – .500, Jake Mangum – .432, Elijah MacNamee – .413, Rowdey Jordan – .395, Jordan Westburg – .389, Tanner Allen – .386). State is also hitting .331 as a team during that span.
· MacNamee is riding a career-best and team-best 26-game reached base streak, and in that span has batted .356 (36-for-101) with 26 runs scored, 11 doubles, six home runs and 29 RBIs.
· With a hit in 21 of his last 23 games, MacNamee has recorded 10 multi-hit games, five three-hit games, while averaging .367 (36-for-98) and collecting 28 RBIs, 26 runs scored, 11 doubles and six homers. The stretch lifted his batting average from .246 to .321.
· After having missed the entire 2017 season due to injury, Ethan Small has been impressive in his bounce-back season as he’s kept opponents to three or fewer runs in 13 of his 15 starts in 2018.
· Jake Mangum has tallied six multi-hit games in the last 10 games, hitting .432 (19-for-44) with a trio of three-hit performances, two doubles, one triple, three home runs and 12 RBIs. Mangum has a hit in 14 of his last 15 games and has hit five doubles in that stretch.
· Freshman Rowdey Jordan is on a tear since April 14 (last 26 games), averaging .421 (40-for-95) with 29 runs scored, 18 RBIs, 11 doubles, five home runs and 14 walks. In that span, Jordan has increased his batting average from .191 to .325.
· Since returning to the field on May 9 after not having pitched since April 11, Riley Self has been dominant in 13.0 innings pitched. Over seven appearances since May 9, Self has allowed just four hits (no extra-base hits), no runs, three walks and has struck out 11.
· With 133 doubles on the year, State leads the SEC and ranks seventh in the country in the category. 13 different Diamond Dawgs have tallied a double on the year, with Jake Mangum’s 20 being a team best. Mangum ranks second in the league and 33rd nationally.
· Along with bring second in the SEC with five triples, Tanner Allen ranks 39th nationally in the category.
· Mangum’s 92 hits are tops in the conference and rank 11th in the country. Stovall ranks seventh in the SEC with 79 hits on the year.
· While Mangum leads MSU in multi-hit games (27), Tanner Allen (23), Hunter Stovall (20) and Rowdey Jordan (17) are the next closest to their junior center fielder.
· The MSU pitching staff has combined for 10+ strikeouts in 23 games this season.
· State’s staff has also collected 26 or more punch outs in nine of its last 12 three-game weekend series, with six of those having been 29+ strikeout weekends. The Bulldogs most recently struck out Florida 33 times.
· MSU is third in the SEC in batters struck out looking (167), while Konnor Pilkington leads the league in strikeouts looking (40).
· As a team, State leads the league and ranks 11th in the nation in fielding double plays with 57.
· Stovall tops the SEC in fielding double plays (48) and Luke Alexander ranks fourth in the conference (39).
· The MSU defense also leads the SEC in runners caught stealing with 27 and is fifth in the league in runners picked off with seven.
· In just 39 appearances this year, Marshall Gilbert is third in the conference with 16 runners caught stealing. Dustin Skelton ranks 12th with eight.
Friday Forecast: High 96, Low 70 – Sunny – 0% Chance of Rain
Saturday Forecast: High 96, Low 71 – Partly Cloudy – 20% Chance of Rain
Sunday Forecast: High 92, Low 71 – AM Thunderstorms – 40% Chance of Rain