Clutch at midnight: Jordan breaks through freshman wall for Bulldogs

Rowdey Jordan
Staff Writer

It was just after midnight on Monday morning when Rowdey Jordan stepped to the plate in Nashville, Tennessee.

Mississippi State had a man on second base with one out in a dead-locked 6-6 game. A trip to Omaha, Nebraska, and the College World Series was on the line and it was going to be up to the freshman.

That was nothing new for Jordan and he’s passed the point of being overwhelmed in the moment. He stepped into the batter's box and began to hack away. He fell behind 0-2 and worked it back even. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, the freshman got just enough of the baseball to chop it over first base where the defender had come off the bag to come make the play.

“Where I hit it was in no-man’s land,” Jordan said. “I did my best effort to get there.”

Jordan hustled down the line, slid head first and beat the tag of the base by Vanderbilt’s Austin Martin. Just a few pitches later, fellow freshman Tanner Allen lined a double into right field scoring what would count as the winning run in the 10-6 victory to send the Bulldogs to the CWS.

In many ways, that at-bat represented the entire season for Jordan and for his teammates. The Bulldogs started off in a hole and kept chipping away. Before long they had done enough to have a chance and then put themselves over the top at the right time.

“It’s like a story," Jordan said. "A team that starts 2-7 in the SEC and 14-15 overall isn’t supposed to have that type of success. We’ve always believed in ourselves and we just had to get over the hump and we’re over that hump now.

“It was tough, especially when we were losing in the beginning. That was hard. Battling through that and having the success that we’ve had has been fun. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Jordan has worked hard to get himself in the MSU lineup and have a chance to play every day. He was a longtime State commitment out of Auburn High School and even elected to stick with the Bulldogs when assistant coach Butch Thompson left MSU and went to coach the Auburn Tigers.

There really was no changing Jordan’s mind after he picked the Bulldogs several years ago as an underclassmen starring on the football field and on the diamond.

“I was pretty much set here and (Thompson) knew that,” Jordan said. “We joked about it, but I was set on coming to MSU. I just wanted to get away from home and the baseball tradition here and the opportunity to play for a College World Series was a big reason.”

The season hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies for Jordan. He moved from a natural infield position to left field back in the fall and has had both good and bad moments in the field. At the plate, he was in a major slump midway through the year.

Jordan dipped down to a .191 batting average after the Ole Miss series through 23 games and had 13 RBI, three doubles and two home runs. The freshman didn’t stop working, though. He spent time with assistant coach Jake Gautreau on his two-strike approach and it was something he felt was the biggest part of his adjustment as a hitter in the SEC.

Now, heading to Omaha, Jordan is batting second in the lineup. That .191 average has ballooned to .333 and is good for second on the team. He has five home runs, 21 RBI and 12 doubles in his last 30 games. Most importantly, he’s become a pain for opposing pitchers to put down easily.

“Any time that you have guys that are new to our league, it’s going to be a period of acclimation or adjustment; especially if you’re talking about younger hitters against older pitching,” MSU interim head coach Henderson said. “It’s a completely different level of skill than he saw in high school baseball. During that period, there’s a lot that goes on between a hitter and a coach. I think you have a really good athlete, a really good hitting coach and the right environment that you stay positive.”

In the postseason, Jordan is now 16-of-36 with eight RBI, four doubles and a couple of home runs. No longer is he lost at the plate. He’s becoming one of the Bulldogs’ most dangerous hitters in an equally dangerous lineup.

The freshmen wall has been conquered and he’s ready for bigger things at week’s end.