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Mike Lopresti | | June 23, 2021

Mississippi State's late-game rally against Virginia proves that it's a force to be reckoned with in Omaha

Tanner Allen's home run punctuates huge Mississippi State rally
OMAHA, Neb. — And now you begin to wonder if maybe it is Mississippi State’s time.
It was a game that went thisaway Tuesday night, before it went thataway, and karma changed sides in less time than it takes to eat a hot dog. Omaha lives for U-turns like this. And its beneficiary almost always goes away feeling as if it can conquer the world.  
“Crazy college baseball game,” Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis would say later. “That's typical baseball.”
The team that went into the eighth inning without a hit, trailing 4-0 . . .  left the eighth with six hits, two home runs and a 6-4 lead. That was Mississippi State. “We talked to the team about it's hard to get the last outs in Omaha,” Lemonis said
The team that scored four runs in its first 10 hitters . . . managed only one more all night with its next 32 batters. That was Virginia.
The starting pitcher who came into the game with an 0-5 record and 6.06 earned run average was spectacular. That was Virginia’s Griff McGarry, who did not give up a hit until his 98th pitch. Which Kellum Clark knocked into the right field stands.
The closer who had become a folk hero in the NCAA tournament, with opponents hitting .111 against him, threw the pitch that turned into a three-run homer and wiped out his team’s lead. That was the Cavaliers’ Stephen Schoch. He hadn’t given up a home run since April 6.
The man who hit it came to the plate 0-for-7 in the College World Series and had already struck out twice. That was the Bulldogs’ Tanner Allen.
The team that needed to get into its bullpen in a hurry and had to go through eight pitchers was the team that hung on to win 6-5. That was Mississippi State. Nobody in the history of the College World Series had ever done that.
Mississippi State rallies to defeat Virginia 6-5 in the College World Series
Put this drop-from-the-sky victory next to the 21 strikeouts the Bulldogs put on Texas the other night, and there is a whiff of something special happening for Mississippi State.  There are a lot of good vibes from the Bulldogs 2-0 record here, setting a strikeout record one night and pulling off one of the niftier comebacks in recent memory another. The four-run rally matched the largest ever for a College World Series game in TD Ameritrade Park. The Bulldogs managed this victory striking out only six, or 15 fewer than Sunday night. The team that was outscored 25-3 in the SEC tournament is one victory from the championship finals.
“I know this sounds crazy but the ability to take a punch and keep playing is one of our greatest assets we have,” Lemonis said. “We've taken punches all year long. That's one thing in our league and playing against the best every weekend is, you get knocked back and you've got to stand up and fight. And our kids, that's what they do.”
This is their third consecutive College World Series, and they know what it’s like to leave Nebraska disappointed. Maybe this time is different. The eighth inning included a pinch-hit single by Josh Hatcher, a Rowdey Jordan double, and the Allen blast. They are all Mississippi State veterans of Omaha. “They came here to win it. They've been here,” Lemonis said. “And the way they're playing we have a chance to play for a while.”
Then again, fate is fickle in baseball, and Tuesday night showed why.
“I told our guys that they didn't think about this game as we lost the game. They won it,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “And it's important that they think of it that way. “
McGarry was five outs away from the first no-hitter in Omaha in 61 years. He started the eighth inning with a walk. Then a fly out. Then he threw a fastball to Clark. No more no-hitter, no more shutout. Soon, after he was gone, no more lead. “Definitely a roller coaster of a night,” McGarry said later. “I think it gives you perspective. That's just baseball. It's not going to go your way sometimes.”
Clark is Mississippi State’s No. 8 hitter. Strange thing. The Nos. 8 and 9 hitters are hitting .295 in this College World Series, with 23 RBI and six home runs. Jayson Gonzalez hit a homer and walk-off single for Vanderbilt against Arizona from the No. 9 spot. Logan Michaels’ had his nationally applauded home run for Virginia on Father’s Day in front of his cancer-stricken father at No. 8. Texas had five RBI earlier Tuesday from Eric Kennedy and Silas Ardoin, Nos. 8 and 9. So much for the idea the bottom of the lineup can’t hurt you in Omaha.
Still, it was the No. 2 hitter, Allen, who turned around the game for good when he walked to the plate to face Schoch. Up to then, it had not been a good night.
“But I have it written on my glove in the outfield, "It don't matter,’” he said. “Those three at-bats are behind me. I knew I had another at-bat or two to make a difference in the game. I knew I had a base open. I knew they weren't going to throw me a fastball. So I kind of had an idea. I was just trying to get a slider up in the zone so I could do some damage with it."
“Sometimes you get 'em; sometimes you don't.”
That’s the narrow ledge every team walks here. So far, Mississippi State seems to know the way.

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Division I
Baseball Championship
June 16 - 26, 2023
Charles Schwab Field Omaha | Omaha, NE

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