By JOEL COLEMAN
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen has seen plenty of good pitching outings on the mound at Dudy Noble Field. Not many can match what MSU’s eighth-year leader witnessed on Friday night.
Dakota Hudson tossed his first career complete game and completely shut down the Ole Miss offense as the No. 12 Bulldogs topped the No. 11 Rebels 3-1.
“This was one of the best outings on a Friday night ever at Mississippi State,” Cohen said. “It has to be in the top 10. This was special.”
Hudson allowed just four hits and didn’t walk a batter as he struck out a career-high 11. The lone blemish on the right-hander’s line was an unearned run Ole Miss pushed across in the first inning.
“I just felt like I really focused on getting my breaking ball in the zone and that just kind of opened things up for me,” Hudson said. “It was just fun to be out there. We had guys making plays left and right. You can’t ask for much else.”
Hudson has now gone 30 2/3 consecutive innings without allowing an earned run. He’s only surrendered a trio of unearned runs since Southeastern Conference play began, one each to Vanderbilt, Georgia and now, Ole Miss.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Mississippi State right fielder Jake Mangum said. “(Hudson) just goes out there every Friday night and shows us he’s the Friday night ace.”
Hudson’s splendid outing might have been for naught if not for the sparks provided by Mangum. The freshman first aided Hudson with an outfield assist in the top of the first that was the initial step in shutting down an Ole Miss rally. After the Rebels began the game by putting men on the corners courtesy of a hit-by-pitch and an error, J.B. Woodman singled to right. Will Golsan scored on the play to put the Rebels up 1-0 early, but Mangum gloved the ball and fired to third base to gun down Errol Robinson for the first out of the inning. Hudson then got out of trouble when Woodman was caught stealing ahead of a strikeout.
“I feel like having (Mangum’s) play made for me and then the next play having (catcher Elih Marrero) throw out a runner at second showed me we’re here to play so I had to step it up,” Hudson said. “Just having your team back you like that is unbelievable.”
Mangum’s contributions continued in the bottom of the first. After a one-out single, Mangum tagged up and advanced to second on Nathaniel Lowe’s fly out to right-center. A batter later, Reid Humphreys singled to tie the game at 1-1.
In the sixth, Mangum broke the tie when he led off with a bunt single, stole second, advanced to third on another tag-up play and then scored on Humphreys’ second RBI single.
MSU added an insurance run in the seventh inning when Jacob Robson reached on an error with two outs, then came all the way around to score on an errant pickoff throw.
The two-run cushion was more than enough for Hudson, who retired Ole Miss in order in the eighth before pitching around a leadoff single in the ninth to close things out.
Cohen said it was an easy choice to let Hudson get the complete game.
“He wanted the baseball,” Cohen said. “He wanted to finish this sucker. He just had that look on his face that showed he wanted to be out there with the ball in his hands. You don’t see that a ton in high-caliber pitchers, when their talent comes together with their personality, that’s as aggressive and forceful as (Hudson) is. It’s fun to watch. What an outstanding performance.”
Brady Bramlett took the loss for Ole Miss, who fell to 20-6 overall and 2-5 in SEC play.
MSU improved to 19-7-1 and 5-2 in front of a crowd of 10,152, which was the 37th time in Dudy Noble Field history that a crowd of more than 10,000 was in attendance.
The Bulldogs and Rebels continue their three-game weekend set Saturday at 2 p.m. with a battle of junior right-handed pitchers.
Austin Sexton will get the start for Mississippi State. Ole Miss counters with Chad Smith.