CM – Mississippi State will play for anything and you won’t believe who got them there


The state of Mississippi did it. As is the Bulldogs trademark, they made it dramatic. The « Dogs » defeated Texas in a 4-3 walk-off nail biting on Saturday evening and will play for the national championship in a best-of-three series against SEC comrade Vanderbilt on Monday.

The usual Bulldog heroes were heroic. Startkrug Will Bednar certainly did his part. Closer Landon Sims has made his. Doesn’t he always? Tanner Allen laced two hits. Logan Tanner had two more. Both knocked in the barrel. Rowdey Jordan, Brad Cumbest and Kellum Clark participated.

None of this will surprise anyone who has accompanied the Bulldogs through 48 wins, 17 defeats and regional and national championships.

But to win a national championship, you have to experience surprises. It takes a village. It takes a full team. Here, on Saturday night, at TD Ameritrade Park, were Tanner Leggett and Brayland Skinner, former teammates at Northwest Community College, those surprises. They were heroes too. Size. Coupling.

Tanner Leggett? Brayland Skinner?

« My juco bandits, » Chris Lemonis called them.

Leggett, the backup shortstop and a junior to Raymond, didn’t come into play until the sixth inning after starter Lane Forsythe was saved for a pinch of hitters. Understand that Leggett has only beaten 79 times this season. Had 18 hits. Beaten .228. Knocked in nine runs. It was the 10th RBI that he will remember forever. And we come to that.

But first about Brayland Skinner, who only came into play as a pinch runner at the end of ninth place 3: 3 after Kellum Clark had reached first place, hit by a pitch. Skinner, a second reserve outfielder from Lake Cormorant, doesn’t play much either. He hit .215 in limited record appearances that season. But the young man can run like a sprinter. It’s blurry. With an out he took off and easily stole second to get into the goal position. That happened to Longhorn’s ace-liberator Cole Quintanilla, the second to take on Leggett.

On Quintinella’s third field, Leggett laced a line drive single to left midfield. Skinner scored just as the ball came back into the infield. It slipped, but didn’t have to. Willie Mays, in his prime, couldn’t have kicked Skinner out.

Skinner then joined teammates as they raced from the dugout to congratulate Leggett.

Who would have thought? With all the big names in the Bulldogs lineup, the guys who together won the most important game of the year were two small-town Mississippians, juco transfers, just waiting for their chance. When they got it, they did well.

Such a situation – having the chance to get your team into the national championship series – might be too big for some guys, especially one who didn’t have as many chances, especially on a stage like this.

« What an opportunity, » said Leggett. « Some people get nervous about this situation, but I pray for this situation. »

He hit a guy, Quintanilla, who had shut down the Bulldogs over 3.1 innings of stellar relief. Quintanilla was good all season. He entered with a 1.27 ERA, but he hung up a slider and Leggett put a short, crisp swipe on it and nailed it in place. Game over.

How did it feel?

« It’s amazing, » said Leggett. “I had a couple of guys come up to me in the dugout and tell me I was going to get a chance to win it. I had the chance of a big hit a few nights ago but came back to third place. I held my head up and said my little prayer and when Bray’s bag was stolen – I knew if I had a punch I wouldn’t make it, and I did, thank God.  »

Like most of the season, Bednar and Sims were dynamite on the hill. Bednar wasn’t as keen as the Bulldogs’ CWS opener, a 2-1 win over the same Texan team. But he was sharp enough. He gave up three runs with only four hits over 6.1 innings. What he did was set the stage for Sims, who, as always, were nails. Sims hit 2.2 hitless innings and knocked out four.

« I felt good, » said Sims. « I felt pretty safe in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, and if we had to go to the extras I would have felt safe too. »

Lemonis has to get used to these late game exploits and the drama that seems to come with every win. All three Bulldogs victories at the 2021 CWS were achieved in a single run. Five of her last six postseason wins have been achieved by one run.

« It has become our identity, » said Lemonis. “I told our team last night at the rain delay that it wasn’t our way if you ever thought it was going to be too easy. We have to fight for it and to get here it would be a fight. Our team was so resilient all year round. It’s probably our # 1 quality – just having the courage to be able to stay focused and stay competitive.  »

So now they’re going to be competing for the one trophy that isn’t in the Bulldogs’ baseball trophy case, which means a national championship. They’ll be up against Vanderbilt, a team they know well.

What would it mean to win everything?

Landon Sims said, “It would mean anything, to us, to the school, to the city. I think it would mean the world. I think we have a really good chance of doing that here.  »

– Item credit to Rick Cleveland from Mississippi Today –

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