As I wrote last year, sometimes Omaha happens when you least expect it.
Then of course, there are seasons where reaching the College World Series is fully expected – and that certainly was the case for Mississippi State in 2019.
Even with first-year head coach Chris Lemonis taking the helm, the Diamond Dogs returned enough offensive firepower and experience on the mound to be confident that they had what it takes to return to Omaha.
Right fielder Elijah MacNamee stated as much in the locker room in the bowels of TD Ameritrade Park last season after MSU lost to eventual national champion Oregon State in the semifinals.
“We will be back next year,” he said. “We will win the national championship next year, mark my words.”
While the latter half of MacNamee’s statement remains to be seen, the first part of his prophecy came to fruition with Sunday night’s 8-1 victory over Stanford.
It was a super regional that won’t soon be forgotten by the folks in Starkville. Several players suiting up in their final series at Dudy Noble Field had starring roles in several memorable moments.
In Game 1, it was Ethan Small who shook off a shaky start to give the Bulldogs six solid innings and walked off the field to a standing ovation befitting that of a first round draft pick.
The same could be said for Peyton Plumlee in Game 2. The senior who missed all of last season due to an NCAA drug suspension, bounced back from giving up a leadoff home run on Sunday and ended up having his best outing to date.
Junior catcher Dustin Skelton, who was drafted in the 18th round last week, delivered a triple with the bases loaded that broke Sunday’s game open in the third inning and also hosed out two base runners from behind the plate as well.
The ninth inning on Sunday played out like a Hollywood script with the SEC’s all-time hits leader Jake Mangum leading off by ripping a first-pitch single through the six hole in his final at bat in front of the home crowd.
Two batters later, MacNamee stepped in and unloaded all of his disappointment of not being drafted into a three-run home run that sent the crowd of 11,597 into a frenzy. Not even the antics of a grumpy “get off my lawn” first base umpire Frank Sylvester could dampen the festive mood for all involved.
And to close things out in both games, Cole Gordon – who had to be talked into coming back for his fifth and final season – slammed the door shut and found himself at the bottom of the dogpile on Sunday night.
The final chapters for this State team have yet to be written and we all have to wait to find out whether this fairy tale has a happy ending.
Logan Lowery (logan.lowery @journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Journal. Read more at Djournal.com.