OXFORD – No Mississippi State player’s bat has been as red-hot as first baseman Tanner Allen’s this week.
Allen’s swing stayed sweet on Friday to lead the Bulldogs to a series-opening win over their instate rival.
No. 5 MSU triumphed over No. 11 Ole Miss by a final score of 2-0 on Friday night at Swayze Field in a game that’s start was delayed for two hours due to rain. The victory was keyed by the surging Allen.
Allen delivered a pair of clutch, two-out RBI hits to provide all the offense the Bulldogs needed. In the third inning with two outs, Allen followed a Jordan Westburg single with a drive to the right-field wall. Allen got a double and Westburg scored with ease.
Then, in the top of the fifth with runners on the corners and two outs, Allen delivered a run-scoring single up the middle.
Allen finished the game 3-for-4 with his pair of RBI. The big night continued Allen’s brilliance after he went 4-for-4 in a win over Memphis earlier in the week.
MSU’s pitching staff made sure Allen’s big hits stood up. Ethan Small drew the start for Mississippi State and the ace left-hander was again brilliant as he’s been essentially all season long. Small worked five scoreless innings and allowed just three hits. He walked only one while striking out 10.
“Ethan Small was Ethan Small,” MSU head coach Chris Lemonis said. “(Jared) Liebelt gave us a good performance. I thought we played good defense too. I was really proud with the way the guys played tonight.”
Small could only be slowed down by the weather. He returned to the mound to pitch in the bottom of the sixth, but before the frame could begin, the game was delayed for the second time – this time for over 30 minutes – due to heavy fog. Small didn’t return after the delay.
Instead, MSU relied on its bullpen and the right arm of Liebelt the rest of the way. Liebelt pitched the game’s final four innings. The only trouble he encountered came in the eighth.
Ole Miss opened up the inning with a pair of singles to put two on with nobody out. However Liebelt responded by getting a strikeout and then inducing a 4-6-3 double play ground ball to escape the jam.
Liebelt then sat the Rebels down in order in the ninth to lock down the four-inning save. Small was credited with the win and Ole Miss starting pitcher Will Ethridge was tagged with the loss.
Mississippi State’s victory gave the Bulldogs their 40th win this season. The Bulldogs are now 40-10 overall this year and 16-9 in Southeastern Conference play.
Meanwhile Ole Miss fell to 32-18 overall and 15-10 in league action.