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Mississippi State on precipice of first National Championship, where they’ve been before

Mississippi State's Brayland Skinner, center, reacts after scoring the walk-off run against...
Mississippi State's Brayland Skinner, center, reacts after scoring the walk-off run against Texas in the ninth inning during a baseball game in the College World Series Saturday, June 26, 2021, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Rebecca S. Gratz)(Rebecca S. Gratz | AP)
Published: Jun. 28, 2021 at 2:58 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WLBT) - For many Mississippi State fans, the 2013 College World Series still stings.

Arguably the best team in the nation was soaring high into the final round, but was cut down by the buzzsaw UCLA Bruins, who got hot at the right time.

That team, which has produced several major leaguers, was the school’s best since the vaunted 1985 team, of Thunder and Lightning fame.

It was a major return to form for a team that had been toiling at the bottom of the Southeastern Conference just three years prior.

Since that time, the Bulldogs have been a consistent force in the postseason. They haven’t failed to reach a Super Regional round since 2015, and 2021 marks their third straight trip to the College World Series in Omaha.

The 2019 squad won more games than in 2013, swept their way through the Regional and Super Regional, but dropped back to back games in Omaha to Louisville and Kumar Rocker’s Vanderbilt.

Which is all to say the Bulldogs keep winning, but coming up just short.

The 2021 Diamond Dawgs are playing for themselves, of course. But there are ghosts of Mississippi State past all around them. Rafael Palmeiro. Will Clark. Hunter Renfroe. Jake Mangum. And yes, Morgan William and Dak Prescott.

But this team is trying to block out the noise and make a different kind of history.

“You can’t go back,” Head Coach Chris Lemonis said in an interview with HailState.com. “We know our whole university and our whole state is behind us, and we just want to play good and represent our fan base. The reality is, these poor kids, [like] Tanner Allen, I don’t think was born [for some of the past losses]. They are here. They are making their own mark on history is our goal.”

To get to the promised land, they’ll need to take down the Vanderbilt Commodores (Rocker is sure to again make an appearance in the series).

Vanderbilt has a new role that they didn’t ask for as the most hated team in America--at no fault of their own.

Vandy was given a free pass into the final round after COVID-19 issues within the NC State team caused the NCAA to disqualify them from playing a deciding semifinal game. Like it or not, that’s pulled NC State’s fanbase, and most of America, firmly behind the Bulldogs.

Vanderbilt’s been here before. With two National Championships since 2014, they’re one of the few teams in America who have been more successful than the Bulldogs.

And on top of that--Vanderbilt gets a freshly-rested Jack Leiter, widely considered the best pitcher in the country, to open the series after his start against NC State was canceled.

Mississippi State faces an uphill battle this week. They’ve constantly gotten to the precipice of college baseball and fallen just short. The 2021 team is hoping to change that perception.

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