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Resilient Bulldogs on cusp of history after another comeback

Published: Jun. 30, 2021 at 12:28 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WLBT) - “Dawgs win again” has been the rally cry for the 2021 Mississippi State baseball team all year.

It’s an indication that the team is building upon their own momentum and carrying that into their next battle.

On Tuesday night, the Dawgs won again. And that means they’ll get one last chance to say their rally cry after a game.

It would have been understandable for the Bulldogs to come out flat Tuesday night following a disastrous Game 1 where Vanderbilt dominated from the first inning until the last pitch. But that’s just not how these Dawgs operate.

After a frustrating night on offense Monday against All-American Jack Leiter, the Bulldogs were unstoppable at the plate Tuesday, tallying 13 runs on 14 hits.

They blew the game open early with a four-run third, making Vandy’s pitchers pay for any mistakes, all while saving their bullpen for the all-important Game 3.

Houston Harding and Preston Johnson were all State needed on the mound, each allowing just a solo home run on the night.

It all led to a dominant 13-2 performance with their backs against the wall--a spot they’re all too familiar with.

All chips are now on the table. Head Coach Chris Lemonis is expected to use Will Bednar to open the game, with a fresh and eager Landon Sims ready to get plenty of outs from the pen.

All-American Kumar Rocker is likely to give Vandy as many outs as he can on the other side.

Each team’s best will be on display.

History is on the line Wednesday night. Vanderbilt is seeking a dominant third National Championship in less than a decade. Mississippi State is looking for their first team National Championship in school history.

Lemonis and his team do not need to be reminded of this, but there’s no doubt that everyone surrounding the program feels the pressure of the historical near-misses, from Rafael Palmeiro and Will Clark to Hunter Renfroe and Jake Mangum.

But the case can be made that no Mississippi State squad has ever had the same resiliency as the 2021 Diamond Dawgs, win or lose.

Palmeiro and Clark were ousted before the finals in 1985. Renfroe’s team couldn’t tally a win against UCLA. Mangum’s teams never made the final round.

The 2021 Bulldogs have made it farther than any other, and can be remembered in history as the best Diamond Dawgs squad of all time--and yet, none of that will be solace without a win.

MSU fans have been longing for a National Championship and there may never come a better time than now. Everything has led to this.

The early ousting from the SEC Tournament. The thrilling series against Notre Dame. The comeback win over Texas. each has strengthened the team and brought them to the precipice of the promise land. Nobody is expecting the Bulldogs to come out flat Wednesday night--it just wouldn’t be part of their status quo.

“We took a punch [Monday] and we came back and played really good baseball,” Lemonis told HailState.com.

The distractions are only noise to everyone except the guys on the field and they expect, and demand, their best performance against the tough Commodores.

“We’re going to remain cool, calm and collected,” second baseman Scotty Dubrule said. “You just gotta take it a pitch at a time…We’re just going to go out and do our thing.”

One pitch at a time, against one of the best pitchers on the planet, with so much on the line is where the Bulldogs stand. And there may not be anything they’d be more comfortable with.

If all goes well, the night will end with one final shout of “Dawgs win again.”

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