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Anthony Chiusano | | June 21, 2019

How Mississippi State baseball pulled off each of its 28 (!) come-from-behind wins in 2019

All-Access with 'the Mayor' of Starkville, Jake Mangum

OMAHA, Neb. ‚ÄĒ¬†Mississippi State baseball's 2019 season was defined by come-from-behind wins. MSU's improbable four-run ninth inning rally in¬†its 2019 College World Series opener against Auburn was its 28th come-from-behind win of the year.

Twenty-eight. That's the most in Division I baseball, three better than Texas Tech. It was more than 149 DI schools had in total wins this year. Three more than the MLB's Miami Marlins' win total through their first 70 games.

Mississippi State finished 2019 at 52-15 after losing on a walk-off hit to Louisville in a College World Series elimination game. Nearly 54 percent of the Bulldogs' 2019 came in come-from-behind fashion.

"There's never a point where somebody is not locked in or somebody has not bought into what we've got going on," said Marshall Gilbert, the hero who had the walk-off hit against Auburn.

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An important note: all comeback wins are not created equal. Quite a few were early deficits that quickly turned into runaway wins. Others required some late-inning magic, like the stunner against Auburn.

Before we dive into each game, here are some of the key figures from our research:

  • Only two of Mississippi State's comeback wins came in walk-off fashion. The first came in a 17-inning classic in the SEC tournament against LSU. The second was Sunday's win over Auburn in the College World Series.
  • 10 times this season, Mississippi State didn't take the lead for good until the seventh inning or later. Two came in extras (11th and 17th innings). Sunday's win was the only time¬†MSU won while¬†trailing in the ninth.
  • Remarkably, the Bulldogs' average margin of victory in comeback wins is 5.8 runs. Seven ended up being double-digit differences¬†‚ÄĒ including two 17-run wins. Eight finished as one-run wins.
  • Twenty-three of Mississippi State's 28 comeback wins came after an opponent scored first. MSU boasts a .719 winning percentage in such games (23-9).
  • The majority of Mississippi State's comebacks came from just one run down (13 of 28). MSU's biggest comeback was from seven runs down (done twice). Here's a full breakdown¬†by largest deficit:
Comebacks by largest single-game deficit:
1 run 2 runs 3 runs 4 runs 5 runs 6 runs 7 runs
13 8 3 2 0 0 2

Now, let's rewind the tape and dissect each and every comeback win by the Bulldogs in 2019.

Feb. 15 vs. Youngstown State

Final score: Won 14-3
Largest deficit: Trailed 3-0, bottom sixth

HOW IT HAPPENED: What better way to open the new Dudy Noble Field than with the first of many comeback wins? Youngstown State got to ace Ethan Small early on opening day, scratching across two in the fourth and another in the sixth off of reliever Peyton Plumlee to take a 3-0 lead. 

But then the Bulldogs awoke. They tied it in the bottom half of the sixth with an RBI double from Jordan Westburg and a two-run homer from Tanner Allen. In the eighth, MSU pushed across 11 runs on nine hits to put the game away. 

THE HERO: It's hard to pick just one when there's 14 runs scored in the final three turns at bat. But Allen's two-run homer in the sixth evened things up and paved way for the offensive explosion two innings later. 

Feb. 16 vs. Youngstown State

Final score: Won 14-2
Largest deficit: Trailed 2-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: YSU got the jump on Mississippi State again for the second straight day, scoring two in the top of the first. It was all Bulldogs after that. MSU took the lead with three in the bottom of the first and hung a crooked number each of the following three frames as well. Another come-from-behind win with very little drama.

THE HERO: Allen continued his hot start to the season with a 2-for-4, six-RBI performance. He had a three-run homer in the second and a bases-clearing double with bases loaded in the third. 

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Feb. 20 vs. UAB

Final score: Won 3-2
Largest deficit: Trailed 2-0, bottom seventh

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Bulldogs were getting no-hit through six innings before a Justin Foscue single in the seventh. He'd eventually come around to score on a Dustin Skelton single, and senior Jake Mangum had the go-ahead two-RBI knock later in the inning. Three runs on three hits for the game would be all MSU needed to escape.

THE HERO: Mangum's clutch hit was the deciding blow. Cole Gordon also deserved some credit, striking out four over the final two frames to earn the save.

March 1 vs. Sam Houston State

Final score: Won 5-4
Largest deficit: Trailed 4-2, bottom seventh

HOW IT HAPPENED: Sam Houston State scored two apiece in the sixth and seventh to take a 4-2 lead. Mississippi State then responded with two of its own in the bottom of the frame to even things out. The go-ahead run scored an inning later on a SHSU error on a Skelton grounder up the middle. Foscue raced home from second after his leadoff double to start the eighth.

THE HERO: Foscue finished with three hits, an RBI and scored the game-winning run. 

March 10 vs. Maine

Final score: Won 9-8
Largest deficit: Trailed 7-6, bottom sixth

HOW IT HAPPENED: A big five-run sixth by Maine wasn't enough to sink the Bulldogs. MSU tied it at 7-7 in the bottom of the sixth and tacked on two more runs in the eighth on singles by Mangum and Elijah MacNamee. 

THE HERO: MacNamee's two-out knock proved to be the game-winning hit after Maine pushed a run across in the ninth to tighten the gap. 

March 13 vs. Grambling State

Final score: Won 18-1
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, bottom fourth

HOW IT HAPPENED: After Grambling opened the scoring in the fourth, Mississippi State turned on the gears to the tune of 18 unanswered runs on 18 hits and eight walks.

THE HERO: Dealer's choice. Six Bulldogs finished with multi-hit games. Of note, MacNamee had a grand slam and five RBIs and Mangum (4-for-5) picked up his 300th career hit.

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March 15 at Florida

Final score: Won 6-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, top fifth

HOW IT HAPPENED: Welcome to SEC play. MSU only trailed once in the game but sweated it out in the ninth as the Gators mounted a comeback attempt. After trailing 1-0, the Bulldogs built up a 6-2 lead before Florida pushed across three in its final turn at bat. The potential tying run was stranded at third on a game-clinching strikeout by Gordon.

THE HERO: MacNamee's two-run double in the top of the ninth made it 6-2 and gave the Bulldogs just enough insurance to squeak by in Gainesville.

March 19 vs. Little Rock

Final score: Won 15-4
Largest deficit: Trailed 4-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Falling behind in the first frame would become a common theme midseason for Mississippi State. Quick responses also would. MSU answered Little Rock's four-run top of the first with a four-spot of its own in the bottom half. That started a string of 15 unanswered runs, with an eight-run sixth being the final dagger.

THE HERO: Mangum finished 5-for-6 with three RBIs at the top of the lineup. 

March 20 at Samford

Final score: Won 6-4
Largest deficit: Trailed 4-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Sound familiar? Just one day after the Little Rock game, Mississippi State once again gave up a quick four in the first inning to go behind 4-0. This time, it took until the later innings to pull away. Trailing 4-2 in the seventh, MSU posted four runs behind a Landon Jordan fielder's choice, singles from Rowdey Jordan and Mangum and a Westburg reached on error. 

THE HERO: Rowdey Jordan was 2-for-5 with the game-tying hit while Mangum was 3-for-5 with the go-ahead knock.

March 24 vs. Auburn

Final score: Won 20-15
Largest deficit: Trailed 11-4, bottom fourth

HOW IT HAPPENED: These SEC rivals combined for 35 runs, 42 hits and five errors in a bizarre game featuring five lead changes. Auburn's biggest lead stood at 11-4 after a seven-run outburst in the fourth. MSU countered with four in the fifth and three in the sixth. After seven frames, it was all tied at 15-15. Then the Bulldogs broke through for five in the eighth to put the Tigers away.

THE HERO: Skelton's three-run homer in the eighth made it 20-15 and bookended a career-high five-RBI day.

March 26 vs. Mississippi Valley State

Final score: Won 18-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 3-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Homers by Foscue and Westburg in the second and third innings, respectively, erased an early 3-0 hole. From there, MVSU kept it close until the Bulldogs' lethal offense once again broke out for 11 runs over the final two innings.

THE HERO: Westburg's go-ahead shot in the third was a three-run bomb. He finished 3-for-5 with three runs scored and four driven in.

March 28 vs. LSU

Final score: Won 6-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 2-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: LSU's two-run lead in the top of the first thanks to a Daniel Cabrera homer did not last past the third inning. Foscue's three-run shot in the third flipped the score. Two more homers in the fifth provided enough cushion to survive a three-run LSU rally in the eighth.

THE HERO: Foscue had two of MSU's three homers, including that go-ahead shot in the third. The third baseman was 2-for-4 with four RBIs.

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April 5 at Tennessee

Final score: Won 6-3 (11 innings)
Largest deficit: Trailed 2-1, top second

HOW IT HAPPENED: Mississippi State broke through for four runs in the top of the 11th to spoil a tremendous pitching effort by the Volunteers. Tennessee led 2-1 through seven before MacNamee walked with the bases loaded to tie it up. In the 11th, MSU scored its runs on a wild pitch and singles by Allen and Mangum.

THE HERO: There's a reason why Mangum is the SEC hit king. On this night, he went 4-for-6 with a pair of runs scored and a pair driven in, including a two-RBI knock in the 11th to make it 6-2.

April 7 at Tennessee

Final score: Won 7-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 3-1, top fourth

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Bulldogs fell behind 2-0 after one and 3-1 after three. A MacNamee single and an Allen homer in the fourth and fifth, respectively helped MSU build a 4-3 lead after five. From there, MSU added some insurance and the bullpen locked down the series win.

THE HERO: Jared Liebelt was lights out in relief, pitching three spotless innings to close out the win.

April 10 vs. South Alabama

Final score: Won 7-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: A Foscue homer, Westburg double and Allen two-run single gave Mississippi State a 4-1 lead by the end of the third. South Alabama had a couple two-run innings in the fifth and eighth, but a three-run homer from Allen in the seventh stood as the deciding runs.

THE HERO: Allen drove in five of MSU's seven runs in a 3-for-4 performance at the plate. His seventh inning homer to center was the deciding factor.

WATCH: What makes Mississippi State ace Ethan Small an elite pitcher?

April 23 vs. Ole Miss

Final score: Won 8-1
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, top fourth

HOW IT HAPPENED: Mississippi State took this midweek matchup against the rival Rebels behind four straight scoring innings from the fifth through eighth. Foscue, again, came up with the big hit. Tied 1-1 in the sixth, he doubled down the right field line to score two. MSU ended the game with eight unanswered runs.

THE HERO: Foscue was named MVP of the Governor's Cup with his game-winning two-RBI double.

April 26 vs. Georgia

Final score: Won 19-3
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Georgia was the No. 3 team in the nation heading into this late April weekend, a three-game MSU sweep. In the opener, MSU cruised to a 19-3 win with 14 runs in the final four innings. The Bulldogs took the lead for good in the second with a four-run frame.

THE HERO: Five Bulldogs had more than one hit in the rout. But let's focus on Ethan Small, who struck out 11 in six two-hit innings. 

May 8 vs. Memphis

Final score: Won 10-9
Largest deficit: Trailed 7-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Mississippi State rallied from seven down, tying its biggest comeback on the year. Starter Keegan James failed to record an out (six runs in 0.0 innings) to put MSU down 7-0 after one half-inning. The bullpen prevented any further damage and MSU battled back to tie it at 7-7 in the seventh ‚ÄĒ largely via small ball. A Marshall Gilbert¬†¬†three-run homer certainly helped. But a groundout, two singles and two sac flies also got the job done. It was MacNamee's two-run double, though, in the eighth that put the Bulldogs up for good.

THE HERO: MacNamee found the gap in right-center field in the eighth to plate two and give Mississippi State the final lead at 10-9. 

May 11 at Ole Miss

Final score: Won 8-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 4-2, top seventh

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Bulldogs trailed by two twice, including at the end of the sixth inning. Six runs later in the seventh, and MSU were back in control. Five of Mississippi State's 10 hits came in that big inning, including two of its three extra-base hits.

THE HERO: Allen's two-RBI single, following Mangum's tying hit, bookended MSU's six-run inning.

May 12 at Ole Miss

Final score: Won 11-5
Largest deficit: Trailed 2-1, top fourth

HOW IT HAPPENED: Another big inning, this time nine runs in the fourth frame, pushed the Bulldogs past their in-state rivals. Eight different Bulldogs drove in runs to clinch a series sweep.

THE HERO: Allen reached base a team-high four times, including on a bases loaded walk. 

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May 16 vs. South Carolina

Final score: Won 24-7
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Mississippi State continued its trend of late-inning onslaughts against the Gamecocks with a seven-run fifth and a five-run eighth. MSU scored in every turn at bat after the second inning, making South Carolina's 1-0 first inning lead a distant memory. 

THE HERO: Once again, we have a pick from the litter. Two notables: Allen was 5-for-5 with a walk and Skelton was 1-for-4 with a grand slam.

May 17 vs. South Carolina

Final score: Won 11-2
Largest deficit: Trailed 2-0, bottom third

HOW IT HAPPENED: Death, taxes and Mississippi State pouring it on late. The Gamecocks led 2-0 before MSU tied it up in the fourth. Then the Bulldogs scored four in the seventh and five in the eighth to cruise to another victory.

THE HERO: Josh Hatcher homered in back-to-back innings, giving MSU a 3-2 lead in the seventh and an 8-2 advantage in the eighth.

May 22 vs. LSU (SEC tournament)

Final score: Won 6-5 (17 innings)
Largest deficit: Trailed 5-4, bottom 16th

HOW IT HAPPENED: Mississippi State only trailed once in this marathon game in the first round of the SEC tournament. MSU gave up a run in the 16th inning to break a 4-4 tie and a seven-inning scoreless drought. But in the bottom half, Rowdy Jordan scored on a mishandled ball off the bat of Mangum to tie it up again. Gunner Halter then came through in the 17th with a walk-up single up the middle

THE HERO: Halter ended the 6-hour, 43-minute tournament game, driving Halter in from second in the 17th. He entered the game earlier as a pinch-hitter and finished 1-for-4.

May 31 vs. Southern (NCAA regionals)

Final score: Won 11-6
Largest deficit: Trailed 4-2, bottom fourth

HOW IT HAPPENED: MSU had a bit of a scare to start its NCAA tournament run, falling behind Southern 4-2 and having to remove freshman JT Ginn after three innings due to injury. But as they did all year, the Bulldogs battled back. MSU scored four in the fifth and three in the seventh to seal the win.

THE HERO: Westburg's two-run single in the seventh gave MSU the lasting lead. The sophomore finished 1-for-3 with two RBIs and a run scored.

June 2 vs. Miami (NCAA regionals)

Final score: Won 5-2
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, top third

HOW IT HAPPENED: Mississippi State swept its way through regionals, though this matchup marked the second game of the round in which it trailed. MSU plated three in the fourth and two in the eighth to pave way for an easy Cole Gordon save.

THE HERO: Reliever Jared Liebelt loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh before getting out of the jam with a double play. It wasn't the cleanest work, but it served as a shutdown inning after MSU had just scored two in the top half.

June 8 vs. Stanford (NCAA super regionals)

Final score: Won 6-2
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, bottom first

HOW IT HAPPENED: Ethan Small allowed just one unearned run (in the first) in a dominant six-inning performance. With Small cruising, Mississippi State steadily built a lead, helped by three Stanford errors, with a run in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth.

THE HERO: Skelton's two-run double in the third put the Bulldogs on top 2-1. They would hold the lead from there.

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June 9 vs. Stanford (NCAA super regionals)

Final score: Won 8-1
Largest deficit: Trailed 1-0, top second

HOW IT HAPPENED: Once again, Stanford struck first in super regionals before Mississippi State took control in the middle innings. A Foscue RBI walk was followed by a Skelton bases-clearing triple in the third to take the lead. 

THE HERO:¬†Skelton's triple was the deciding hit. But . we'd be remiss not to mention MacNamee's statement homer in the ninth to put the final touches on an 8-1 lead. His monster shot ‚ÄĒ and his bat flip ‚ÄĒ is must-watch:

June 16 vs. Auburn (College World Series)

Final score: Won 5-4
Largest deficit: Trailed 4-1, bottom ninth

Watch Mississippi State's miraculous 9th inning comeback

HOW IT HAPPENED: The last, perhaps most impressive comeback. Auburn was an out away from advancing to the CWS winners' bracket. Then third baseman Edouard Julien triple-clutched and airmailed a throw to first, keeping the MSU line moving. All together, Mississippi State notched four hits and four runs to flip a 4-1 deficit into a walk-off 5-4 win. The Bulldogs went 3-for-6 with RISP in the ninth inning after going 2-for-18 in the first eight.

THE HERO: Marshall Gilbert delivered the walk-off single right up the middle to score Hatcher from second. It was his only hit of the night, and something he'd been dreaming of for the past year.

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