Baseball vs Mississippi State

#27 Garrett Stallings pitches during the game against Mississippi State on Friday April 5, 2019 at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.  

For most of the evening, it was a classic Friday night baseball game in the Southeastern Conference. Two starting pitchers kept the other team off balance as they turned in great outings.

Mississippi State’s late game rally evened the game up at 2-2, sending it to extra innings before the Bulldogs prevailed, winning 6-2 against Tennessee at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

Mississippi State’s deadly lineup got to work early, as the Bulldogs tallied a run in the first. Jake Mangum, who now leads Mississippi State in career hits after his four-hit night, took the first pitch of the game to left-center field for a double.

Tennessee starter Garrett Stallings recorded two outs and looked like he might escape the inning unscathed, but Elijah MacNamee doubled to right-center and gave the Bulldogs the early lead.

The Vols answered the bell in the bottom half of the first, claiming the lead by scoring two runs.

Jay Charleston got the Vols going with a one-out single before Andre Lipcius doubled down the right field line to give Tennessee runners on second and third. Al Soularie then laid down a perfect bunt on a squeeze play and was able to beat it out for a single.

Mississippi State’s Ethan Small struck out Evan Russell for the second out of the inning before Ricky Martinez beat out a grounder to shortstop for an RBI, his 16th of the season.

“It was great,” head coach Tony Vitello said. “We have a runner at third with one-out and we strikeout… We’re disappointed, you’re hanging you head hoping somehow, someway you can score a second run and Ricky really made it happen there just by putting the ball in play.”

Both teams struggled to generate offense after the first inning as a classic Friday night SEC pitcher’s duel emerged.

Ethan Small, the SEC strikeout leader, kept Tennessee batters off balance as he threw seven innings, allowing six hits and two runs while striking out 11.

The Vols’ Garrett Stalling had it going too, throwing 7.2 innings, giving up two runs on six hits and striking out seven.

“I could really pitch well in the bottom of the zone,” Stallings said. “I was getting ahead really early and being able to finish guys when I needed to.”

Stallings was rolling in the eighth, striking out the first two batters of the inning before Mangum sparked a two-out rally with a single up the middle. Rowdey Jordan took a two-strike pitch and singled, giving Mississippi State runners on the corners.

“I got those first two outs and Mangum got a hit,” Stallings said. “Next guy hit a really good curveball. I’d probably throw it in the same spot again. I had a chance to get the guy with a strikeout with runners on first and second but I walked him. It’s just part of it and I’ll learn from it.”

After Stallings walked Westburg to load the bases, Vitello went to his bullpen to try to get out of the jam. Left-handed pitcher Garrett Crochet came in and couldn’t get the first batter out, walking in the game-tying run.  

“He kinda lost a little juice,” Vitello said. “You don’t want to question yourself and have Garrett Crochet sitting down there in the bullpen…Crochet has really big shoulders, literally and as it relates to his mentality, and we ask a lot of him. Unfortunately tonight he goes home thinking he cost us the game, but you already know from looking at the box score that’s not the case.”

Crochet would limit the damage with a flyout to center, but Mississippi State’s two-out rally successfully tied up the game.

Tennessee got a runner in scoring position in the eighth inning, but a Russell groundout ended the inning. Neither team reached base in the ninth inning, bringing Tennessee into its first extra-innings game of the season.

Mississippi State took the lead in top half of the eleventh inning after a pair of singles gave the Bulldogs runners on the corners with one-out and a Crochet wild pitch scored the go-ahead run.

The Bulldogs weren’t done, though, as a Tanner Allen two-out single scored Foscue. Crochet struggled to get the final out of the inning and Mangum delivered the knockout blow as his two-strike single gave Mississippi State a 6-2 lead.

Tennessee tallied a run in the bottom half of the 11th on a Pete Derkay double, but the Vols didn’t have enough juice to rally a comeback.

First pitch for game two is set for 6:00 p.m. Saturday night at Lindsey Nelson Stadium.

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