OMAHA, Neb. – Mississippi’s first three victories in the College World Series were singles. The Bulldogs fourth was a blast and it was timed well. Houston Harding and Preston Johnson combined on a four-hitter and MSU benefited from the fighting Vanderbilt pitching in a 13-2 win on Tuesday night which was a crucial one forced third game in the College World Series final.
The easy win allowed Bulldogs trainer Chris Lemonis to hold back rested pitchers, including star reliever Landon Sims, for the winning take-all game 3 on Wednesday night.
« We’re excited because firstly we are still playing and secondly we used two arms tonight, » said Lemonis. “Tomorrow we have the opportunity to use a few other guys because of the score. It was nice after the game. I grabbed Landon and said, ‘Man, it was really nice not having to show you off tonight’ because I feel like he’s been out there for every win over the past few months. «
The Commodores (49-17) are aiming for their second straight national title and third since 2014 after their most one-sided defeat in their 29 CWS games ever.
« You just have to have a short memory, » said Vandy’s CJ Rodriguez . « I think we have to wash it out asap and get it ready tomorrow. »
« This game is done and we’re going to stay cool, calm and collected and bring out the same energy tomorrow, » said Scotty Dubrule of the MSU. « Tomorrow is a new day and we have to face some tough weapons. »
The start of this game was postponed by two hours due to the rain, but that didn’t detract from the excitement of another MSU fan, including the quarterback the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott in a State pinstripe baseball jersey, and former NFL QB Jay Cutler and basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse, who represents Vandy.
Like Game 1, when Vanderbilt ran seven runs in the first inning on the way to an 8-2 win, that was over early when the state of Mississippi broke things open with a third inning of four runs. « Big impact game from our boys, just a tough group, » said Lemonis after MSU’s biggest advantage in Omaha since defeating Georgia Southern 15-1 in 1990. « We felt like our backs were against the wall. » For years and they just keep reacting. «
The Commodores hit a season high of 10 walks, including three in a row from 17-year-old starter Christian Little (3-2), which fueled Mississippi’s big fourth inning. < The Bulldogs turned a mistake in the first into a run, and the crucial third inning began with shortstop Carter Young, who set up Tanner Allen's grounder but didn't get the ball out of his glove. It was a hit, but it probably should have been an out – and was a sign of the future.
Little’s three straight walks forced themselves to run and brought emergency helper Patrick Reilly with them. Dubrule’s tough comebacker distracted from Reilly’s leg and scored two runs, and the Bulldogs got another on a wild pitch filled with bases.
« We’ve never played a game like this before, but it didn’t matter whether it was 13-1 or 2 : 1 – if you lose 2-1, it could have more impact than a 13-1 game, « Vandy coach Tim Corbin told his team a run in his commentary. « It’s embarrassing. »
The Bulldogs finished on 14 goals, with easy shortstop lane Forsythe leading them from 9th place with three goals after playing 1-1 in his first five CWS games.
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Johnson (4-0) allowed two hits, hitting seven in five innings of Harding’s relief.
Prescott, MSU’s two-time All-SEC quarterback in 2014-15, received great cheers during an interview at the stadium when he raved about a Bulldogs fan base in Omaha that vastly surpasses Vandy’s in numbers and volume. When an MSU fan caught a foul ball and tossed it into the section behind him where Prescott was sitting, Prescott signed and tossed it back.
The All-SEC final could turn into a pitching match between the stars Kumar Rocker from Vanderbilt and Will Bednar from Mississippi State lead.
Rocker, the CWS Most Outstanding Player 2019, has four days of rest. Bednar, who beat Texas on his CWS debut on June 20, has had three days of rest since throwing 97 pitches in the bracket final against the Longhorns.
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