OMAHA, Neb. • No. 3 Mississippi State was understandably on an emotional high late Sunday after scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Auburn 6-5 and advance in the winner’s bracket at the College World Series.
But the Bulldogs went right back to work with a Monday morning practice in preparation for tonight’s matchup against second-ranked Vanderbilt at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
“It was hard to go to sleep last night for players, coaches and fans but we didn’t come out here to win one game,” said MSU coach Chris Lemonis. “My message after the game was to enjoy it but you can’t get too high or get too low out here.”
MSU and Vandy are certainly no strangers to one another in the postseason. The Bulldogs and Commodores matched up in a wild super regional in Nashville last season with walk-off hits by both teams in the first two games and 10-6 victory in 11-innings that sent State to the College World Series.
The Diamond Dogs (52-13) have only played Vanderbilt (55-11) once this year. The Commodores claimed a 1-0 win at the SEC Tournament on May 23 with Drake Fellows besting Ethan Small on the mound.
“It’s crazy to take a lot from that game because it was two different starters and those starters were really good,” Lemonis said. “There wasn’t a lot to that game. There wasn’t a lot of offense for us and not a lot of offense for them. We’re very familiar with each other and it’s a brand new game. How these two arms run out there and pitch will be the key.”
Mississippi State will send out senior right-hander Peyton Plumlee (7-4, 3.67 ERA) tonight. Plumlee has won his last two starts, logging 11 2/3 innings and only surrendered three runs and one walk.
Plumlee pitched a scoreless inning of relief against Vandy at the SEC Tournament.
“He’s the best match-up for us in this game,” Lemonis said. “He’s been good against left-handers and they’ve got six out of nine left-handers in their lineup…When he’s good, he’s got that sinking fastball that gives us a chance to make a lot of plays.”
The Commodores will counter with freshman righty Kumar Rocker (10-5, 3.50). Rocker tossed a no-hitter his last time out and struck out 19 batters in the process against Duke on June 8.
“They’ve got a very good arm going against us,” said MSU first baseman Tanner Allen. “This guy’s very good and got a good slider and a good fastball. We’re going to have to really show up and have a good approach against him to score some runs.
“But I don’t doubt our guys one bit. One through nine, we can really swing the bat and I feel like if we stick to our approach, we’ll get him.”
MSU leads the all-time series against Vanderbilt 71-49-2 and tonight will mark their first meeting in Omaha.
Tonight’s winner does not play again until Friday at 6 p.m. while the loser will battle the winner of today’s Auburn-Louisville contest in an elimination game on Thursday at 7 p.m.