When you look at attendance numbers and the crowds at Dudy Noble Field this past weekend, it seemed like just a normal one for the Mississippi State baseball team and fans.
But for regional opponents Campbell, VCU and Samford, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to play in front of one of the best baseball crowds those players will ever witness.
Mississippi State, which swept the regional with a 3-0 record, played each of its regional opponents once. It played Samford on Friday afternoon, VCU on Saturday night and Campbell on Monday morning.
Mississippi State and Samford’s 2 p.m. start on Friday drew a crowd of 8,794. Saturday’s night game between MSU and VCU drew a weekend-high 10,011 fans. And Monday morning’s 11 a.m. start between MSU and Campbell in the regional championship drew 8,251 fans.
Yes, 8,251 fans at 11 a.m. on a Monday.
For Mississippi State, as well as Ole Miss and Arkansas, that’s just another day at the ballpark. That isn’t the case for everybody, though.
Samford’s Joe Lee Griffin Stadium has a capacity of 1,000 fans while Campbell’s Jim Perry Stadium has a capacity of 1,500. This was one of the only times that Campbell, which has only been in five regionals in team history, has played in front of a crowd of that size.
Let them eat cake!
“This was probably the best experience I’ve ever had,” Campbell outfielder Spencer Packard said. “This place is awesome. They love me and I love them. They fed me all the time and it was just a great experience. I have no words. I loved it.”
Packard’s experience was justified. The senior outfielder hit a three-run home run off of MSU freshman Jackson Fristoe in the first inning to give Campbell its only lead over MSU on Monday.
He finished the weekend with four hits and two home runs, and when he wasn’t crushing baseballs, he spent time throwing the baseball with fans in the outfield before games and between innings.
Other Campbell players were also able to experience what Dudy Noble had to offer.
After Monday’s game, Mississippi State fans gave Campbell players a standing ovation for their performance, and then the entire Campbell team circled the field one last time giving high-fives to MSU fans while all walking away with plates of food cooked in the lounge.
And without even being asked in the postgame press conference, Campbell head coach Justin Haire raved about his team’s time in Starkville.
“Tremendous experience for our guys,” Haire said after the game. “The Starkville community has been amazing for our fans, our families, and our team. First class operation. This is the third-straight regional that we’ve had the opportunity to be in and this is as first-rate of an experience as we’ve had.”