The first 19 Texas A&M hitters to come to the plate were retired by Ethan Small and No. 6 Mississippi State took a no hitter into the eighth inning on its way to a 4-0 victory in the series opener on Friday afternoon at Olsen Field at Blue Bell Park.
“I thought he was better than normal today," said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. "I thought his velocity was better and he had great command early on. He worked both sides of the plate and just dominated.”
Small was rolling from the first pitch, as he struck out the side in the first inning. A huge defensive play by Justin Foscue kept the perfect game intact in the seventh inning, as he made a sliding play on a ball and threw the runner out at first to being the frame.
Small hit the next batter and followed that with a walk, but got a flyout and a strikeout complete the inning. In all, Small faced 23 batters in his seven hitless innings. He struck out eight, got nine flyball outs and coaxed four groundball outs.
The big thing for me was I kind of felt like I have all three [pitches] working coming out of the bullpen," Small said. "Sticking with the fastball early has been working for me and then going [to my other pitches] when I see they are taking good swings at [my fastball].”
The left-hander gave way to Jared Liebelt in the eighth, as Liebelt retired the first two batters, before Ty Coleman dumped a ball into center field that Jake Mangum nearly made a diving catch on. Liebelt threw the final two innings scoreless, allowing just the one hit.
The one hit allowed is the fewest since allowing one hit to Akron on February 18, 2011 and the shutout is the first on the road since winning by an identical score at Auburn on May 13, 2016. It is the third shutout of the season for the Diamond Dogs
The offense was provided by a familiar lineup, as Rowdey Jordan opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly to center field in the fourth inning and Dustin Skelton followed with an RBI single. Foscue plated the final two runs of the game with a one-out, two-RBI single with the bases loaded in the eighth inning.
Foscue delivered two hits on the night and scored a run to go along with his two RBIs. Mangum, who also made a spectacular catch to start the fourth inning, chipped in a pair of hits.
Mississippi State and No. 14 Texas A&M will start a doubleheader at 2 p.m. Saturday.