STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - Postseason baseball is full of heart-pounding, nail-biting and deep-breath moments, and the No. 5 Mississippi State baseball program packed all of those into an 11-6 opening-round victory over Southern in the NCAA Starkville Regional.
The back-and-forth contest started with a first-inning run from Mississippi State (47-13), before Southern (32-23) tied the game with a run in the top of the third. After the Diamond Dawgs plated a run in the bottom of the third, Southern notched three runs in the fourth to grab a 4-2 lead. A four-run fifth inning from MSU gave the hosts a 6-4 edge, but Southern tallied two in the top of the seventh to knot the score at six. A three-run bottom of the seventh gave MSU the lead for good, as it added two more in the eighth to account for the final margin.
Senior Jared Liebelt (2-0) earned the win in relief, as he allowed two runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He issued one walk and struck out two, including one with two on base and two outs in the fourth inning to hold Southern's lead to just two runs.
Graduate Student Cole Gordon came in and nailed down his 10th save of the season to move into a tie for No. 7 on the single-season charts with Jay Powell (1991) and Van Johnson (1998). He faced eight batters – with one walk and one hit allowed – and recorded all six outs via strikeout.
The save was also the 15th of his career to move him into a tie for No. 8 all-time with Adam Larson (15; 1999-2001).
Offensively, four Diamond Dawgs posted multi-hit games and seven of the nine starters reached base at least twice. Sophomore Rowdey Jordan tied his career high with four hits, scoring three runs and driving in three RBIs. Jordan hit his sixth home run of the season in the eighth inning. The trio of sophomore Justin Foscue, sophomore Josh Hatcher and junior Dustin Skelton all chipped in two hits.
Sophomore Jordan Westburg delivered the go-ahead RBIs with his only hit of the game in the seventh inning. He also walked twice, stole two bases and scored two runs in the game.
Rally Dawgs – Mississippi State posted its 24th come-from-behind victory of the season against Southern.
Rowdey Jordan – Hit his sixth home run of the season as part of a career-high-tying four-hit game. Drove in three RBIs and scored three runs.
Josh Hatcher – Had a pair of hits, walked and drove in two RBIs.
Cole Gordon – Recorded the final six outs, all via strikeout to earn his 10th save of the season. Issued one walk and allowed one hit. Moved into. No. 7 on the single season charts with his 10th save of the season, which moved his career total to 15 to push him into No. 8 all-time at MSU.
Jordan Westburg – Reached base three times with a single and two walks. Drove in the go-ahead RBIs in the seventh inning with a two-RBI single. Also stole two bases and scored once.
Javeyon Williams – Went 3-for-3 with two doubles, two runs scored and one RBI.
Johnny Johnson – Hit a two-run home run to account for Southern's only multi-RBI game.
Jake Mangum started the inning with a hit-by-pitch and Jordan Westburg walked. The pair moved up one base on a Tanner Allen flyball to right field, before Elijah MacNamee's groundout scored the first run of the game.
Mississippi State 1, Southern 0
Southern tied the game up thanks to a pair of hits and one State error. With two outs, Javeyan Williams singled on a bunt, moved to second on a failed pickoff attempt by MSU starting pitcher JT Ginn and came in to score on a Tyler LaPorte single to left field.
Mississippi State 1, Southern 1
Westburg walked with one out, before stealing second and third base. With two outs, MacNamee walked in front of Justin Foscue's RBI double down the left-field line.
Mississippi State 2, Southern 1
Brandon Smith replaced Ginn to start the inning and Southern put five of its first seven runners on base and scored twice. After a leadoff single, Smith got a strikeout, before a hit-by-pitch and a stolen base put runners on the corners. Bobby Johnson delivered the first run of the inning with an RBI single to left field, before a Hampton Hudson single loaded the bases. Coby Taylor followed with a bases loaded walk and Williams' sacrifice fly scored the third run of the frame. Jared Liebelt entered and struck out the final batter of the inning.
Southern 4, Mississippi State 2
The Diamond Dawgs got things rolling with one out in the frame, as Allen reached on an infield base hit, before MacNamee flew out to center field. Four-straight hits followed, starting with a Foscue single to put two runners on base. Dustin Skelton drove in the first run with a single and Rowdey Jordan followed with an RBI double. Josh Hatcher delivered the go-ahead runs with a two-RBI double off the Adkerson Plaza wall in right field.
Mississippi State 6 Southern 4
The Jaguars tied it up with a one-out, two-run home run against Liebelt. After Williams doubled to start the inning, Johnny Johnson hit a flyball to left field that Rowdey Jordan nearly caught and brought back into play, but the ball caromed off his glove for Johnson's fourth home run of the season.
Mississippi State 6 Southern 6
State recaptured the lead thanks to a pair of hits and a Southern error. Jordan started the inning with a single and moved to second on an error by the SU second baseman, which allowed Hatcher to reach base. Marshall Gilbert moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, before Mangum was intentionally walked. Westburg delivered with the two-RBI single, before a wild pitch allowed Mangum to score the third run of the inning.
Mississippi State 9, Southern 6
A one-out single from Skelton was followed by the sixth home run of the season for Jordan to right field.
Mississippi State 11, Southern 6
Mississippi State will play the winner of Miami (Fla.)/Central Michigan at 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 1. The loser of the UM/CMU contest will play Southern in the first game of Saturday at Noon.