By JOEL COLEMAN
If Mississippi State head coach John Cohen could’ve scripted Thursday night’s game against Missouri, it most likely would have been drawn up much like what actually transpired. Bulldog ace Dakota Hudson returned to dominant form and the top third of MSU’s batting order sparkled, led by a five-hit night from Nathaniel Lowe, as State cruised past the Tigers 8-2 at Dudy Noble Field.
“The first three guys in our lineup were on base (12) times,” Cohen said. “I was really pleased with the effort of our lineup and then Dakota comes out and he really pitched well. I thought he looked like a dominant SEC pitcher.”
Prior to Thursday, Hudson had scuffled on the mound over the course of the last month. In each of his previous four outings, the junior right-hander had allowed four or more runs. Against Missouri, Hudson looked more like the pitcher MSU saw begin the year by giving up two runs or fewer in seven-straight starts.
Hudson tied a career high with 11 strikeouts as he went 8 1/3 innings and surrendered just seven hits and two runs with only one of those runs earned.
“I just knew it was going to be a fun game,” Hudson said. “Me and (catcher) Jack (Kruger) had a good talk in the bullpen. (Pitching coach Wes Johnson) had a really good plan going. Leading into this, I just felt like the team was ready and knew throwing strikes was what I had to do.”
The Bulldogs gave Hudson plenty of support. State pounded out 19 hits to tie the team’s season high for a single game. The total was also the most hits for MSU in a Southeastern Conference game this season.
Lowe contributed a large portion of that damage. He became the first Bulldog to have a five-hit game since former MSU first baseman Wes Rea accomplished the feat at Arkansas on April 24, 2015.
Lowe ended the evening with three RBI as well, two of which came on a line-drive, two-run homer over the right-field wall.
“I changed a little bit of mechanical stuff I was doing,” Lowe said. “I was able to get some balls on the barrel and was happy with the results.”
Lowe’s home run broke open a close game. After Missouri struck first with a run in the top of the second, MSU captured a 2-1 lead in the bottom half thanks to a solo shot from Brent Rooker and an RBI single from Jake Mangum. Mangum ended the night with four hits.
Lowe’s blast made it 4-1 in the fifth. Jacob Robson added another run later in the frame with a run-scoring single, his first hit since April 2 after missing most of the last month with a fracture in his hand.
“He still doesn’t have his full timing together, but you can see him inching closer to getting that timing,” Cohen said of Robson.
MSU expanded the lead in the later innings. Lowe made it 6-1 with an RBI single in the sixth, John Holland pushed another across with a hit in the seventh and Gavin Collins plated MSU’s final run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
In the ninth, Missouri scraped across an unearned run to cap the scoring. Blake Smith relieved Hudson with one out in the inning and recorded the final two outs to close things out.
“It’s one game,” Cohen said. “Our kids played well, but we’ve got to keep doing this. We’ve got to play really focused because every one of these games matters a lot for sure.”
Mississippi State will attempt to clinch the series Friday. First pitch is set for 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will send junior right-hander Austin Sexton to the mound. He’ll be opposed by Missouri sophomore righty Tanner Houck.