OMAHA, Neb. – The Mississippi state’s inaugural national championship has been established since 1985 when Thunder and Lightning – Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro – starred on what is known as the best-known team that did not win a college World Series.
The Bulldogs 2021 did the job. In the end.
Will Bednar and Landon Sims combined on a one-hitter, the Bulldogs scoring early and extending their lead, and ended up celebrating a 9-0 win over Vanderbilt in the crucial third game of the College World Series finals Wednesday night.
To see it was Ron Polk, the godfather of Mississippi State baseball and the coach of this 85 team.
“Coach Polk built this and started it,” said coach Chris Lemonis. “We run out there and play in front of the big crowd, but Polk was a big part of that, and so have our former players. It’s been many years in development and it’s great fun. And I know our fans.” will enjoy that. “
Oh they enjoyed it. It seemed like the entire city of Starkville, Mississippi, was loud and proud at all three games of the final at TD Ameritrade Park.
When third baseman Kamren James first threw for the final, the Bulldogs’ shelter emptied and about 100 fans jumped from the stands to celebrate. The players went the warning lane and reached the fans by the high five.
“I couldn’t be happier for a team, a city, a fan base, the entire state of Mississippi except, of course, Oxford,” said SEC Player of the Year, Tanner Allen. “These guys are always on my back. So I had to shoot them.
“This team has overcome it all, man. From home getting overwhelmed against Arkansas before 10,000, until Missouri comes in and takes a streak from us and then gets embarrassed at the SEC tournament. We just kept playing and playing. We are national champions. “
Bednar, who worked three days of rest, went three of the first five punches he faced before retiring 15 in a row. He turned the game over to Sims to start in seventh place, and Vandy broke the no-hitter when Carter Young ended up in eighth box with an out to midfield.
“I’ll probably break his chops tomorrow,” said a laughing Bednar of Sims who had lost the no-no. “Winning a national championship doesn’t really interest me. I’m on cloud nine.”
It was the first one-hitter at the CWS since 2014 and the culmination of an Omaha run that seemed to get easier for the Bulldogs the longer they were here. The three victories they needed to reach the final were all decided in one run.
“If you wanted to do something legendary for the first time, it had to be tough,” said Lemonis. “The reason we are Masters is because we have a really tough, resilient group. It has been built over time. It’s the accumulation of the last three years.”
Bednar (9-1), whose 15 strikeouts were the most here in 25 years on his Omaha debut against Texas on June 20, fanned four against Vandy (49-18) and was named CWS Most Outstanding Player.
“Just every time he got the ball here in the postseason he was just a champ,” said Lemonis. “You need someone to get you hot in the postseason, and we had that with Will tonight.”
The national championship is the first in a team sport for the state of Mississippi (50-18) and came at the Bulldogs 12th CWS appearance. Only Florida State (23) and Clemson (12) were at least as often without a title in Omaha.
Logan Tanner and Kellum Clark homered four runs in the seventh inning to take the game out of reach against a Vanderbilt offensive that scored just seven hits and three runs in the final 25 innings of the final.
“We didn’t play our best baseball towards the end,” said Vanderbilt coach Tim Corbin. “Coming through the Regionals was emotional, coming through the Super Regional was emotional, and that wasn’t easy here. And then there was the momentum on the other side. You could feel it and it was real.”
Mississippi State defeated Kumar Rocker (14-4) in fifth place. It was the second time in three CWS starts that the predicted top 10 draft pick was not at its best, in part because of the shakier defenses behind him.
The Commodores made six mistakes in the second and third games of the finals and 13 in seven CWS games. The Bulldogs were clear in their seven games.
Wednesday’s game ended a CWS like no other since it began in 1947. Because of the pandemic, there was no CWS last year and COVID-19 was never out of mind during the event’s return despite the stadium being full.
Positive COVID-19 testing and contact tracing left the state of North Carolina only half available in a 3-1 loss to Vanderbilt last Friday. By that evening, a total of eight players had tested positive and asked the NCAA to remove the Wolfpack from the tournament due to COVID-19 protocols.
A second bracket final between NC State and Vandy was declared a no-contest, and the Commodores made it to the final to take their second straight and third title since 2014.
They won the opener 8-2 after scoring seven runs in the first inning, but they didn’t do much the rest of the series.
Mississippi State won 13-2 in Game 2 and then rolled out to their title win thanks to Bednar.
“Great comeback for her,” said Corbin. “They realized they weren’t out when we beat them in the first game.”
The ’85 MSU team comprised four future Major League All-Stars and won their first two games in Omaha, then fell twice in a row and was gone. The next four MSU teams to make it into the CWS haven’t won more than one game here.
The 2013 Bulldogs reached the finals and flared out, were swept by UCLA and scored only one run in the two games. The 2018 team didn’t fight much in the bracket final against Oregon State, and the 2019 club gambled away a lead in the ninth inning in a playoff game against Louisville.
“All former players own part of it,” said Lemonis.