Mississippi State’s Mangum hits walk-off in 14th
BILOXI -- Wednesday's college showdown was supposed to be a quick meeting between non-conference foes Mississippi State and Louisiana-Monroe before the Bulldogs continued on to SEC rival LSU.
What ended up transpiring at MGM Park was a 14-inning marathon virtually devoid of offense.
The No. 5 Bulldogs and Warhawks combined to burn through 17 pitchers until the 14th inning when freshman center fielder Jake Mangum singled through the right side to score shortstop Ryan Gridley from third for the 1-0 win. Two batters before Mangum, ULM tried to intentionally walk John Holland, but the Bulldog infielder practically hit the ball out of the catcher's outstretched mitt only to see it scooped up by the ULM shortstop without plating a run.
After second baseman Hunter Stovall played along and took the walk, Mangum lined a ball into right field, allowing his Bulldog teammates to spill onto the field in front of what was left of 4,470 fans in the stands.
The game, which spanned four hours and 47 minutes, ended just before midnight.
"Really neat ballgame to be in in the middle of the week," MSU coach John Cohen said on his post-game radio interview. "It seems like every SEC game is just like this one. I think our kids really benefit from playing in a game like this."
Both teams had chances to end the game early. ULM's Cade Stone actually led off the game with a single and eventually made it to third, but former Poplarville flame-thrower Zac Houston retired the next three Warhawks in order to escape unscathed.
The Bulldogs' Stovall reached third in the third inning but MSU was unable to push him across. Stone again made his way around the bases in the 11th inning only to be stranded 90 feet from home.
In the bottom of the frame, Reid Humphreys was plunked and pinch runner Jacob Robson, making his first appearance in eight games, promptly stole second and third only to once again see the Bulldog offense struggle to get a game-ending tally.
Another three innings passed before MSU (25-12-1) finally broke through with the game winner.
"I thought they pitched it really well. This is a tough place to score runs. It's a big ballpark but you can't hit the ball in the air and I thought we did that a little bit too much tonight," Cohen said. "When kids get anxious and they're trying to win the baseball game by themselves you tend to get more fly balls and pop ups. I thought later in the game our focus was much better. Even though we weren't scoring runs I thought we took better swings and had better at-bats."
Ridley was the only Bulldog with two hits. Stone and Anthony Herrera both had two hits for ULM (15-22).
Keegan James, MSU's ninth pitcher, earned the win, throwing a scoreless 14th. Houston went two innings for the Bulldogs, allowing just Stone's hit with two strikeouts.
Both Ryan Cyr and Daniel Brown pitched three scoreless innings apiece, striking out six between them.
Blake Smith, Kale Breaux, Jacob Billingsley, Ethan Small and Paul Young also pitched for MSU.
"I think we actually used a bunch of arms today that really needed some work," Cohen said. "We didn't really plan on playing a 14-inning game, but we got a lot of guys (in) who needed some work in pressure situations. Really proud of them."
ULM starter Keegan Curtis threw four scoreless frames, striking out two. Next into the game, hours after his father, former Southern Miss and major league pitcher Chad Bradford threw out the first pitch, was Keller Bradford. A submariner like his father, Bradford tossed a scoreless frame with one walk and one strikeout.
Post-game media interviews were canceled so MSU could hit the bus and head to Baton Rouge, La. ... Cohen told Scout.com's David Murray that the team will make a decision on usual Saturday starter Austin Sexton (hamstring) on Friday. ... The Bulldogs return to action with a three-game set at LSU beginning at 7 p.m. Friday. Saturday and Sunday's games will be played at 6 p.m. and noon respectively.