STARKVILLE – An NCAA suspension prevented Peyton Plumlee from being part of Mississippi State’s magical run to the College World Series in 2018.
The senior pitcher was determined to be the man on the mound that helped the Bulldogs punch their 11th ticket to Omaha. Not even a home run from the first batter of the game could deter Plumlee from his duty on Sunday night.
Plumlee only surrendered one more hit over the next 6 2/3 innings to give No. 3 MSU the pitching performance it needed in an 8-1 victory over fourth-ranked Stanford to sweep the Starkville Super Regional.
“After (the leadoff homer) I knew that if I let my emotions get the best of me that Stanford – as good a club as they are – would eat me alive,” Plumlee said. “I took a deep breath, looked around and took in the moment and just told myself this is not how I’m going out. This is not how my last outing is going to be. I’m going to fight and give this team a chance to win and get to Omaha and that’s what kept me moving through the game.”
Plumlee (7-4) walked off the field to a standing ovation having struck out six and only issuing one walk.
"He really wasn't great early and then he found it," said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. "He found it because he competed. He didn't just give in. He just kept making pitches and that desire to get back (to Omaha) and experience it was huge for him."
Plumlee was far from the only hero the Diamond Dogs had. Dustin Skelton caught a solid game behind the plate and threw out three base runners in addition to a 2 for 4 showing at the plate.
Skelton dealt the biggest offensive blow in the top of the third with the game tied 1-1 with the bases loaded and two outs. He delivered a triple off the wall in right-center field off Cardinal starter Erik Miller that sent the 11,597 on-hand into a frenzy.
“Honestly off the bat, I thought it was gone,” Skelton said. “Coach always says to get two out of the box so I was just thinking to run my tail off and try to get to second base. When it fell and I turned second, I looked at the fans as I was going to third and I was overwhelmed with how loud it was. I was just trying to live in the moment.”
State tacked on another run in the fourth inning on a Jordan Westburg sacrifice fly to make it 5-1 until some special things started to happen in the ninth.
In his final home at bat, the SEC’s all-time hits leader Jake Mangum led off the final frame with a solid single and Westburg followed suit with the same. One batter later, Elijah MacNamee went out with a bang by drilling a three-run bomb into the Left Field Lounge one final time.
“If you think I can put that into words, you’re crazy,” Mangum said. “You can’t write that any better...That whole inning was God, man. It was really, really cool. It was magical.”
Mississippi State (51-13) finished with 11 hits with Marshall Gilbert going 2 for 4 and Mangum going 2 for 5, each with a pair of singles.
Jared Liebelt and Cole Gordon worked the final 2 1/3 innings of shutout relief before the Bulldogs dogpiled on the pitcher’s mound after Gordon struck out the game’s final batter.
Stanford managed just four hits on the evening and concluded the year with a 45-14 record.
Miller (8-3) suffered the loss, lasting just 2 2/3 innings and giving up four runs on two hits, four walks and five strikeouts.
State's first opponent at the College World Series will be the winner of the Chapel Hill Super Regional between Auburn and North Carolina.