April 12th, 2014.
A record crowd of 15,586 fans wait with baited breath as Ole Miss pitcher Preston Tarkington winds up on the mound. Fans in Red and Maroon alike sit, stand and even pray as 3 hours and 46 minutes of baseball culminate in a single instance.
Catcher Gavin Collins waits at the plate, a runner at second and the game on the line. 10 days later from this day, Collins would record 2 RBIs for the Bulldogs in a win in the Governor’s Cup, but at the moment everyone’s eyes rest on the Freshman in Starkville.
It has been a good day for Gavin to this point, this tense moment.. Two hits, and a huge RBI have kept the Bulldogs in the swing of things. However none of that matters now, as Collins takes the first three pitches of the at-bat.
Tarkington looks at his surroundings, raises himself for the pitch,
The 15,586 react in ways only those passionate could. Tears of pain and joy stream down faces, hugs are exchanged and celebrations erupt in Starkville that would make one assume Mississippi State has won the College Football Playoff.
It happened again yesterday, as 10,186 watched a back and forth game fitting of this great rivalry. From my spot amongst the crowds, I watched miniature celebratory beer showers, the loudest cowbells in the world, and a whole lot of telling the opposing team to go to Purgatory.
Passerby may not understand, but for many inside the State, the highs and lows of College Baseball are as normal as the ebbs and flows of life. This is Super Bulldog Weekend, but more importantly, this is Mississippi State and Ole Miss, the greatest rivalry in College Baseball
For a rivalry as grandiose as this one, it is odd to remember the meek nature of the first game. On October 12th, 1893, Mississippi A&M took on the University of Mississippi in an 8-3 victory. The game was history making in more ways than one as it also marked the first ever intercollegiate match for the then Aggies.
In the over 2000 years of this rivalry, both teams have endured changes in mascots, coaches, stadiums and program history. What initially started as a friendly in-state contest has spanned into a rivalry as storied as they come.
We’ve seen names come and go that now are hallowed in the Major Leagues, Cooperstown and beyond, Names like Kessinger, Renfroe, Pomeranz, Shields all have written their own chapter in this history we so love.
And then there are names like Gavin Collins, doing it for if nothing but the passion of the game, and pure hatred for their in state rivals.
In spite of all of this change, the shifts that could make or break the intensity this rivalry possesses, we know the two teams’ hatred for one another remains the same. There is nothing like Mississippi State and Ole Miss taking it to another on the diamond. If that doesn’t come through on the field, let these 11 words by Dudy Noble say what I’ve tried to convey in 500.
“I know what hell is like. I once coached at Ole Miss.” – Dudy Noble
Happy Super Bulldog Weekend everybody! Enjoy as the world writes another chapter in the greatest rivalry College Baseball has to offer.