Mississippi State will take on the defending national champion Vanderbilt Commodores in the 2021 College World Series finals, beginning Monday, June 28. Here is the schedule for the championship series.
- Game 1 | Vanderbilt vs. Mississippi State | Monday, June 28 at 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2
- Game 2 | Tuesday, June 29 at 7 p.m. ET | ESPN
- Game 3 | Wednesday, June 30 at 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2 — if necessary
This is the third time in the past 10 CWS finals that we've had an all-SEC championship series. South Carolina took down Florida on its way to a repeat in 2011 and then Florida ran to the national championship over LSU in 2017.
It certainly has been a memorable 2021 season and tournament thus far. Let's take a quick look at the final two teams remaining in college baseball before first pitch on Monday.
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MISSISSIPPI STATE: Third time's a charm?
Omaha is becoming a second home for the Starkville faithful. This is the third-straight season the Diamond Dawgs have reached TD Ameritrade Park, and this will be their second trip to the championship series since 2013. It hasn't been an easy run for Mississippi State, which had to grind out every win to earn its finals berth. Each of its three wins came in one-run fashion in Omaha including Saturday's dramatic finish against Texas to advance. Landon Sims has been a key cog in holding it down, closing out all three victories, while tossing seven one-run innings with 11 strikeouts in the College World Series.
Who's hot: Sims is scorching hot, but that isn't a surprise. He's been solid all season and now has a 1.52 ERA, 12 saves and 93 strikeouts in 53.1 innings pitched. That's 15.8 strikeouts-per-nine to put his dominance in perspective. Will Bednar has shined in Omaha but will likely need the finals to go three games in order to pitch again. He's had two tremendous outings against Texas — the first of record-setting proportions — going 12.1 combined innings, allowing just three runs and striking out 22.
At the plate, it's the usual suspects. Rowdey Jordan and Tanner Allen are now the No. 1 and No. 2 Diamond Dawg career leaders for hits at the College World Series. Jordan is 6-for-17 thus far, and Allen is 5-for-17 with four RBIs. Allen now has seven career RBIs in the CWS, tying him with grand-slam legend Jordan Westburg for second in Mississippi State CWS history. Logan Tanner is getting hot with three hits and two RBIs in the last two against Texas, while Tanner Leggett's walk-off single on Saturday put the Diamond Dawgs in the championship series. With all those Tanners getting hot, Mississippi State has itself a full house.
VANDERBILT: Two wins away from two in a row
The Vandy Boys are in the championship series for the second year in a row and fourth time since 2014. They fell to Virginia in 2015 in their first chance to be a repeat champion and hope this year has a different outcome.
Let's not ignore the elephant in the room. Vanderbilt advanced to the finals in unprecedented fashion, which our friends at D1baseball broke down in the wee hours of Saturday morning. In one of the more memorable games in recent College World Series lore, a depleted NC State team of 13 players — with Sam Highfill, who out-dueled Jack Leiter four days earlier, going 3-for-4 in his first career game as a first baseman — took on Kumar Rocker and lost a tightly contested 3-1 ball game in an impressive and gritty performance. The next day, the Wolfpack was sent home due to more positive COVID-19 test results, advancing Vanderbilt to the championship series via no contest.
That should not diminish what Vanderbilt has accomplished this season. The 'Dores won two memorable games in Omaha behind that walk-off magic, with Jayson Gonzalez's 12-inning single giving the Vandy Boys an opening-round win against Arizona before Spencer Jones scrambled home on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth to defeat Stanford. Vanderbilt has a nearly identical record to Mississippi State at 48-16 (the Dawgs are 48-17), so it was another strong season overall for the Vandy Boys.
Who's hot: Kumar Rocker wasn't at his best against that tricky Arizona lineup, but rebounded in the 3-1 victory over NC State. He went six innings, allowing just one run while striking out 11, including the first six hitters he faced. Jack Leiter was utterly sensational, despite the offense not showing up. He was on the wrong side of the most exciting pitcher's duel in Omaha thus far, setting the Vanderbilt CWS single-game record with 15 strikeouts and allowing just one run. He now has 183 strikeouts on the season, 11 shy of David Price's single-season program record.
Offensively, and this should be no surprise, Dominic Keegan is leading the way. He's hit in every game in Omaha, going 6-for-18 with a pair of RBIs and four runs scored. SEC freshman of the year Enrique Bradfield, Jr. had a big three-hit performance against Stanford, including the game-tying single in the bottom of the ninth. Outside of that, the Vanderbilt bats have had trouble finding consistency. Carter Young opened the week with a big home run against Arizona but has been relatively quiet since, while the rest of the lineup looks to string together a couple of solid starts next week.