STARKVILLE – Postseason baseball is full of heart-pounding, nail-biting and deep-breath moments, and the No. 5 Mississippi State baseball program packed all of those into an 11-6 opening-round victory over Southern in the NCAA Starkville Regional.
The back-and-forth contest started with a first-inning run from Mississippi State (47-13), before Southern (32-23) tied the game with a run in the top of the third. After the Diamond Dawgs plated a run in the bottom of the third, Southern notched three runs in the fourth to grab a 4-2 lead. A four-run fifth inning from MSU gave the hosts a 6-4 edge, but Southern tallied two in the top of the seventh to knot the score at six. A three-run bottom of the seventh gave MSU the lead for good, as it added two more in the eighth to account for the final margin.
Senior Jared Liebelt (2-0) earned the win in relief, as he allowed two runs on four hits in 3 1/3 innings of work. He issued one walk and struck out two, including one with two on base and two outs in the fourth inning to hold Southern's lead to just two runs.
Graduate Student Cole Gordon came in and nailed down his 10th save of the season to move into a tie for No. 7 on the single-season charts with Jay Powell(1991) and Van Johnson (1998). He faced eight batters – with one walk and one hit allowed – and recorded all six outs via strikeout.
The save was also the 15th of his career to move him into a tie for No. 8 all-time with Adam Larson (15; 1999-2001).
Offensively, four Diamond Dawgs posted multi-hit games and seven of the nine starters reached base at least twice. Sophomore Rowdey Jordan tied his career high with four hits, scoring three runs and driving in three RBIs. Jordan hit his sixth home run of the season in the eighth inning. The trio of sophomore Justin Foscue, sophomore Josh Hatcher and junior Dustin Skelton all chipped in two hits.
Sophomore Jordan Westburg delivered the go-ahead RBIs with his only hit of the game in the seventh inning. He also walked twice, stole two bases and scored two runs in the game.