STARKVILLE - A couple of early runs set the tone and Christian MacLeod struck out a career-high-tying 12 batters to help No. 3 Mississippi State baseball roll to a 16-4 victory over VCU on Saturday (June 5) evening.
Mississippi State pushed its NCAA Regional winning streak to nine games with the victory and now has seven straight postseason wins at Dudy Noble Field. The 16 runs scored rank tied for No. 7 in Mississippi State's NCAA postseason history and are the most since piling up 18 runs against Nebraska at the 1999 NCAA Regional in Columbus, Ohio.
After Mississippi State (42-15) built a 6-1 lead heading into the sixth inning, VCU (38-15) scored three runs in the top of the sixth inning to cut the lead to 6-4. The Diamond Dawgs then exploded for nine runs in the sixth and added one more in the eighth to close out the scoring and end the Rams nation-leading 22 game winning streak.
MacLeod (6-4) earned his sixth win of the season and used his career-high-tying 12 punchouts to pass the 100-strikeout mark for the season. He is the 26th pitcher in program history to reach the mark in a single season. Along with Will Bednar's 109 strikeouts, MacLeod's 108 make them the fifth tandem in MSU history to reach the century mark and the first freshman duo to do so in the same season at MSU.
The left-hander punched out five of the eight batters he faced over the first two innings of work, with a second-inning home run accounting for VCU's first run of the game. After two walks started the third inning, MacLeod struck out the side to start a string of eight straight batters retired. He worked a scoreless fifth inning, before allowing three runs in the sixth and exiting with the lead after 5 2/3 innings of work.
Brandon Smith got MSU out of the sixth inning with a strikeout and worked 2 1/3 innings of three-hit, scoreless relief. He struck out two and walked one before he handed off to Parker Stinnett in the ninth. Stinnett struck out all three batters he faced to send State to the winner's bracket final at 2-0 in the NCAA Starkville Regional.
The offense was just as much a part of the win on Saturday, with eight of the nine starters reaching base multiple times and driving in at least one RBI. The top three in the order combined to go 9-for-16 with eight runs scored and seven RBIs, while Kellum Clark, Brad Cumbest and Kamren James all homered in the game.
James pounded out three of MSU's 14 hits, scored three runs and drove in a pair of RBIs to mark his 15th multi-hit and 12th multi-RBI game of the season. He also hit his 10th home run of the season, give Mississippi State three with double-digit home runs for the first time since 1999.
Tanner Allen produced his 27th multi-hit game and 18th multi-RBI contest with three hits, three RBIs and two runs scored to move his hitting streak to 20 games. Rowdey Jordan also chipped in three hits - his 19th multi-hit game of the season - and scored three runs to go along with two RBIs.
For VCU, Jack Schroeder was 2-for-4 with his eighth home run of the season and Steven Carpenter reached base three times with a single and two walks. Mason Delane (3-1) took the loss with three runs allowed on five hits in three innings of work.
Head coach Chris Lemonis
On the sixth inning
CL: Well, the ability to expand the game in the postseason is huge. We had an opportunity the inning before, and we didn't. Then, we went out there and responded to their inning it let us rest Landon Sims another night. It gives us him for tomorrow and run him out there in a win situation. That was the big piece of it. Parker [Stinnett] hadn't pitched in a couple weeks. He's been working just like everyone's been working, but he was really good tonight. That type of [velocity] this time of year, he can be a weapon for us.
Rowdey Jordan led off the game with a single and advanced to third on Kamren James' double to left field. He scored on a Luke Hancock groundout and Logan Tanner plated James for an early two-run lead.
Mississippi State 2, VCU 0 Top Second
Jack Schroeder hit a solo home run to center field.
Mississippi State 2, VCU 1
Jordan doubled to right field and scored on Tanner Allen's single through the right side.
Mississippi State 3, VCU 1
Brad Cumbest and Kellum Clark hit back-to-back solo home runs to start the inning.
Mississippi State 5, VCU 1
Tanner walked before Scotty Dubrule singled to second base and Cumbest was hit-by-pitch to load the bases. A walk for Clark pushed one run across.
Mississippi State 6, VCU 1
Liam Hibbits singled through the right side and advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on a Hunter Vay base hit. Michael Haydak followed with a two-run home run.
Mississippi State 6, VCU 4
James singled up the middle before Hancock and Tanner walked to load the bases. Dubrule singled to right field to plate the first of the inning, followed by a second hit-by-pitch for Cumbest to plate another. Clark reached on a fielding error to push one across before a base hit by Jordan brought two runs in. Jordan advanced on a wild pitch before scoring on Allen's two-RBI single. James then hit his 10th home run of the season to left center to make it nine runs in the inning.
Mississippi State 15, VCU 4
Allen walked and advanced to third when James reached on a throwing error. He later scored on a wild pitch to cap the scoring. Mississippi State 16, VCU 4
Mississippi State will take on the winner of the Campbell/VCU game at 7 p.m. on Sunday, June 6. The Camels and Rams will face off at 2 p.m. in an elimination game.