In 2019, as the Mississippi State Bulldogs participated in their final press conference before departing Omaha after falling 4-3 to the Louisville Cardinals in an elimination game at the College World Series, then senior center fielder Jake Mangum choked back tears as he looked at head coach Chris Lemonis and proclaimed, “You’re gonna’ bring the first national championship to this baseball program.” Nobody in that room doubted that sentiment, but when Kam James fielded the bunt and recorded the final out on Wednesday to make that dream a reality, it still didn’t seem real. The 2021 Diamond Dawgs had defeated the Vanderbilt Commodores by a score of 9-0 to take game 3 and the series and secure the first National Championship in school history.
After walking off Texas in the winner take all bracket championship, the Bulldogs aimed their sights on the elusive prize that had evaded one of the most storied baseball programs in the country. Any excitement that followed the Boys in Maroon into the championship series seemed the be dashed fairly quick in game 1. The Commodores were able to take advantage of early Mississippi State pitching woes to jump to a commanding early lead and dispatch the Dawgs 8-2. When the final out of game one was recorded, something happened inside the Bulldog locker room that worked to the disadvantage of anyone pulling for the black and gold. The Dawgs came out in game two on a mission and the Commodores never stood a chance.
Houston Harding drew the start in game two and the southpaw quietly did what he’s been doing all year, eating innings and making batters look silly. Harding went 4 innings, giving up just 1 run on 2 hits while fanning 4. He was followed by Preston Johnson who went the remaining 5 innings, giving up 1 run on 2 hits while fanning 7. The job done by the 2 Bulldog hurlers cannot be overstated, as they allowed the bullpen to rest and be fresh for a winner take all game 3.
The Bulldogs scored early and often in game 2, taking the lead in the bottom of the first on a Luke Hancock RBI that plated Kam James and put the Boys in Maroon on top 1-0. Vandy evened the contest in the top of the 2nd when C.J. Rodriguez took a 2-0 pitch deep into the left field bleachers to make it a 1-1 contest. That was the last run the Commodores would score until a solo home run in the bottom of the 9th. The Dawgs, on the other hand, kept the runs coming in droves. A bases loaded walk to Logan Tanner followed by a Scotty Dubrule single and a wild pitch quickly made it a 5-1 ballgame in the bottom of the 3rd. The Bulldogs would tack on 1 run in the 4th on a Scotty Dubrule fielder’s choice and 2 runs in the 5th on Kamren James and Luke Hancock Singles to make the score 8-1. The final nail was driven in the coffin in the bottom of the 7th when the Diamond Dawgs plated 5 runs on a throwing error and singles from Scotty Dubrule, Lane Forsythe, and Rowdey Jordan to make the score 13-1. The Commodores used their last ounce of desperation in the bottom of the 9th when Maxwell Romero Jr. deposited a ball in the stands in right-center to make the final 13-2 and set up the winner take all game 3.
The M Over S was led at the plate in game 2 by Lane Forsythe, who went 3-5 with 2 RBIs. The Bulldogs also got multiple hits from Tanner Allen, Luke Hancock, and Scotty Dubrule. Dubrule also added 4 RBIs and Hancock contributed 2.
Game 3, on paper, looked like it was setting up to be an all time shootout for all the marbles. Vanderbilt ace Kumar Rocker and Mississippi State ace Will Bednar were slated to face off for the final time for their respective schools. As bad as I want to tell you the dramatic story about the game that came down to the wire and how the Bulldogs won against all odds, that just wasn’t the case. The Diamond Dawgs had the Commodores’ number in every aspect of the game, defeating the defending national champions by a score of 9-0 and securing the elusive National Championship.
Will Bednar turned in, quite possibly, the greatest pitching performance in a College World Series game ever. The righty went 6 innings of no-hit baseball on 3 days rest to put his team in position to win it all. Bednar was able to stay one step ahead of Vandy bats all night, and the defense behind him played lights out to continue their streak of errorless baseball in Omaha. In the bottom of the 7th, the Bulldogs handed the ball off to the best closer in college baseball, and Landon Sims did what Landon Sims does. The Georgia native went 3 innings of 1 hit baseball, giving up no runs and fanning 4.
With the pitching performance that Bednar and Sims turned in, runs weren’t necessarily at a premium. Undoubtedly, the offense didn’t get that memo. The Boys in Maroon hung 9 runs on the vaunted Vandy arms and never looked like anything but the better team in a 9-0 win. The scoring started early when Rowdey Jordan laced Kumar Rocker’s first pitch into right center for a leadoff single. A throwing error advanced Rowdey to 3rd, and then scored on a Luke Hancock sacrifice fly to stake Will Bednar to a 1-0 lead. The Bulldogs added 2 runs in the top of the 2nd on a Lane Forsythe groundout that scored Scotty Dubrule and a Rowdey Jordan double that scored Brayland Skinner to make it a 3-0 ballgame. The Boys in Maroon plated 2 more runs and chased Kumar Rocker in the top of the 5th on back-to-back singles from Luke Hancock and Logan Tanner that plated Rowdey Jordan and Tanner Allen to make the score 5-0. The final blows came in the top of the 7th when Logan Tanner drove a ball out to left for a solo home run and Kellum Clark destroyed a ball to right-center for his own 3-run shot to make the ballgame 9-0. That’s where the score would stay as Landon Sims mowed through the Vandy lineup for the final 3 innings to secure the ultimate prize for the Bulldogs. The Bulldog faithful had more than just smiles on their faces when the last out was recorded. Many, including the writer, had tears in their eyes thinking about the Bulldogs, past and present that have worked, watched, and patiently waited for this moment.
The Diamond Dawgs were led at the plate by 3 hits from Rowdey Jordan and 2 hits each from Tanner Allen, Luke Hancock, and Logan Tanner. Logan Tanner and Kellum Clark each provided a home run as well.
When the dust settled, 6 Bulldogs were listed on the all-tournament team. Logan Tanner, Luke Hancock, Lane Forsythe, Tanner Allen, Rowdey Jordan, and Will Bednar were all chosen as the best at their position in Omaha. Bednar was also chosen as the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Now that the series recap is complete, let me be real with you all. My feet haven’t touched the ground since Kellum Clark hit the 3-run home run in the 7th. I’m 25 years old and can’t imagine the feeling of elation for those who have waited much longer than me, for those who were heartbroken in ’85 when Thunder and Lightning fell just short of the gold and for those teams in the late 80’s and 90’s who could get there but never seal the deal, for the 2013 team that made it oh so close. Today, all that heartbreak seems millions of miles away. Today, the Bulldogs are NATIONAL CHAMPIONS and nobody can take that away.
It seemed that every time the camera panned in the crowd, it found a Bulldog legend. Rafael Palmeiro was on hand to see his program secure the ultimate prize. The man that built it all, Coach Ron Polk was in attendance (and I hear the cigar business in Omaha is booming). Dak Prescott and Ben Beckwith were on hand to represent Mississippi State football. Former Bulldog hurler and 2013 national runner-up Luis Pollorena was on hand. Country singer and die-hard Bulldog HARDY was in attendance every night, and the pride of Point City and Barstool Sports’ own Brandon Walker was there #GrowingTheGame. The camera found these famous faces often, but they were just a few of the Maroon wave that traveled to “Somewhere in Middle America” to paint the College World Series maroon.
I could honestly ramble for a few more pages about the elation I’m feeling at this moment, but I have things I need to attempt to get done, and you’re probably tired of my rambling already. So, maybe I’ll save it for another article. As I wrap up, I will dedicate this article to two Bulldog fans: my friend Joey Harvey, who I know is ringing how cowbell on the streets of gold, and my Grandaddy Raymond Scruggs. My first M over S hat came from him and he’s the reason that I bleed maroon. I know he enjoyed every second of last night’s win.
As I bid you farewell, there’s only one song that I could leave you with, because Bulldog fans, WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!!!!