Elijah MacNamee took a mighty swing on Wednesday night and watched as the baseball he just smashed sailed towards the Left Field Lofts at Dudy Noble Field.
The bases were loaded. MacNamee had just unloaded them. It was a grand slam. MacNamee admired it a bit before trotting the bases.
“I hit it and I had to show a little swag right there,” MacNamee said afterwards.
It was the biggest hit on an evening full of hits and runs as No. 5 Mississippi State cruised to an 18-1 victory over Grambling. The Bulldogs (16-1) pounded out 18 hits and scored at least two runs in each of their final five innings at the plate to easily put down the visiting Tigers (7-9).
Nine MSU players had at least one hit in the game and six had multiple hits in the contest. MacNamee though was the biggest Bulldog of them all on this night. He went 2-for-3 with his homer and five RBI to continue a torrid stretch over his last four games in which he’s 8-for-15.
“He hits so good deeper in counts and he’s on some balls,” MSU head coach Chris Lemonis said of MacNamee. “He’s just talented. I think we always have one of those guys that are going (good at the plate), but he’s been really good of late.”
The old baseball adage says that hitting is contagious and it sure was on Wednesday. While MacNamee might have had the game’s most productive hit, fellow senior and Bulldog centerfielder Jake Mangum had the most historical.
Mangum’s 6th inning single on his 4-for-5 night served as his 300th career hit. He became just the fifth-ever MSU baseball player and 24th-ever Southeastern Conference player to reach the 300-hit milestone. It’s just the latest in a long line of things that Mangum has done that impresses Lemonis.
“I like to sit back and watch him,” Lemonis said of Mangum. “There are pieces where he’s such an aggressive player. When he relaxes and lets the game come to him, he’s so talented. Every contact (Wednesday) was barreled up to all parts of the field, then you see him out there late making a play in left-center. He’s just a talented player.”
The offense spearheaded by MacNamee and Mangum somewhat hid the fact that Wednesday’s game started as a bit of a pitcher’s duel. The game was scoreless after three innings.
In the top of the fourth, Grambling actually took a 1-0 lead when the Tigers pushed across an unearned run thanks in large part to a pair of MSU errors.
From there though, Mississippi State rolled. The Bulldogs pushed across a pair of runs in the fourth to take a lead. Five different MSU players – Mangum, Jordan Westburg, MacNamee, Luke Hancock and Josh Hatcher – then drove in a run each during a five-run fifth for State. In the sixth, Tanner Allen drew a bases-loaded walk to make it 8-1 MSU and that was immediately followed by MacNamee’s grand slam that stretched it to 12-1.
The Bulldogs scored four more times in the seventh and twice in the eighth to coast to the win. Lemonis was proud to see his club get things ironed out after a shaky start.
“We had a bad approach early,” Lemonis said. “Probably a bad matchup for us because (Grambling starting pitcher Andy Escano) could really mix a little soft and a little hard, then you have (a strong wind blowing towards left field) and our guys start trying to hit (towards the Left Field Lofts). It was just a bad matchup. Second time through (the lineup), you could see they kind of made a change and tried to hit balls back side and just tried to put some pressure on their defense.”
It all added up to State’s 12th consecutive victory.
The Bulldogs now will try to carry that momentum forward as Southeastern Conference play opens up for MSU with a three-game set over the weekend at Florida.
On the heels of a 12th-straight win and an 18-1 blowout victory, it appears Mississippi State couldn’t ask for a better time to jump into league play. It looks like the Bulldogs have everything going. MacNamee, however, says that’s not the case. Yes, MSU won with ease on Wednesday. Yes, the Bulldogs haven’t lost since way back on February 22. Still, MacNamee is confident MSU can be even better.
With the Florida series looming, MacNamee says the best for the Bulldogs is yet to come even after a 17-run win.
“We’re still beating teams like that and I don’t think we’re clicking on all cylinders,” MacNamee said. “I think that when we are, it’s going to be very scary.”