Will Bednar and Landon Sims etched Mississippi State into College World Series history on Sunday night in Omaha.
The 1-2 punch of Bednar and Sims led No. 7 Mississippi State to a 2-1 win over No. 2 Texas in the opening round of the CWS at TD Ameritrade Park, but how they did it rewrote the history books.
Bednar and Sims combined to strike out 21 Texas batters, a new single-game record in the College World Series. The previous record was 20, which has held since Ohio State struck out 20 Washington State batters in 1965.
Bednar struck out 15 batters in his six innings of work, while Sims followed suit and struck out six in three innings. The ninth and final inning was the only inning in the game where Texas did not strike out at least twice.
“That’s at the top of the list,” head coach Chris Lemonis said of top pitching performances he’s seen. “I mean, I’ll tell you, it was pretty impressive against a really good team. Texas is good. They’ve been hot lately.”
Mississippi State entered the game with 744 total strikeouts on the year, trailing only Ole Miss with 765. The Bulldogs tied the Rebels with their 21 strikeouts, and still have at least two more games to play this season.
That’s the most strikeouts ever in a season in college baseball history.
Mississippi State is averaging 12.3 strikeouts per game, which leads the nation. Bednar, who started the record-breaking game on Sunday, leads Mississippi State with 128 strikeouts in 80 innings.
Christian MacLeod, who will likely start on Tuesday against Virginia, has 113 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings. Sims, the star closer with 11 saves, has 91 strikeouts in 49 1/3 innings. And eight other MSU pitchers have 25 or more strikeouts this year.
“We have a phenomenal pitching coach and he does a great job,” Lemonis said of the strikeouts. “But this is going on around the country. More velocity, more analytics. We were fortunate when COVID hit is that it gave us more arms than most people and we’ve been able to keep some guys fresh. …
“We have a lot of power arms. I think we’ve had 15 guys touch mid-90s this year at some point. The power stuff leads to strikeouts. It was exciting to see that last night and a lot of fun.”
Bednar and Sims broke the CWS single-game record, but Bednar individually set himself in Mississippi State lore as well.
The single-game record for strikeouts in a CWS by a Mississippi State player was 10 by Chad Girodo in 2013.
Bednar broke that record in only the fourth inning, then cruised past it in the fifth by striking out the side. Bednar admitted on Sunday night that he was silently keeping up with his strikeout count during the game, but Lemonis had no idea anything special was happening until around the fifth inning when someone mentioned it to him in the dugout.
“I think it was about the sixth or seventh inning they threw a ball out and I put it in my bag just in case,” Lemonis said. “You don’t know if you’re winning the game at that point. But once we won, I grabbed it, and I handed it to Will and said ‘that’s one of the best games ever pitched here. And I’m so proud of you. I wanted to make sure you had a game ball.’”