Memorial Day, which happened to be Selection Monday for the NCAA baseball tournament, was probably a stressful time in Starkville, Mississippi. After all, Mississippi State’s baseball team chewed their fingernails to find out whether they would even make it into college baseball’s postseason.
They did — and then they lost 20-10 to Oklahoma on the tournament’s opening day in the Tallahassee regional round.
Since that opening day loss, the Bulldogs have been nearly perfect.
After taking one on the chin against the Sooners, CLANGA played their way out of the losers’ bracket in Tallahassee, beating hosts Florida State, then Samford, then Oklahoma twice on the same day. Big bat Elijah MacNamee slammed a solo home run in the first elimination game with the Seminoles, bouncing the regional tilt hosts from their own ballpark in consecutive games.
After Vanderbilt won the Clemson regional, the Bulldogs and Commodores met in Nashville for a super regional best of three series. State took the first game, 10-8, then dropped the second, 4-3, then blasted through in the third, 10-6, and took the final College World Series berth.
CLANGA is hot at just the right time.
The Bulldogs are playing under an interim coach, Gary Henderson, who took over the club back in February after previous skipper Andy Cannizaro was discovered to have been carrying on an affair with an athletics department employee. Henderson went on to be named national coach of the year at the end of the regular season.
In the opening round of the College World Series in Omaha, then, State has continued its postseason hot streak. They played a doozy of an opening day game against Washington, taking the Huskies into the bottom of the ninth tied 0-0 before Luke Alexander parked a wondrous double into deep right, which scored Hunter Stovall from second. The game ended then and there, 1-0 Bulldogs.
In Tuesday’s winners’ bracket game against North Carolina, the Tar Heels hung tight with MSU until the top of the eighth inning, when Bulldog batters opening things up with eight runs in a single frame. They loaded the bases three times, forced North Carolina to burn through three arms, and pounced on the opportunities presented by three Carolina defensive errors. There was just no stopping them.
State now awaits the winner of Wednesday night’s elimination game between Carolina and Oregon State. The Beavers were the prohibitive favorites to advance out of this side of the bracket, but the Bulldogs have proven over the last three weeks that they aren’t afraid of anyone, and they don’t want to lose baseball games.