SUPER BULLDOGS: MSU battles back against odds to claim regional title

MSU interim baseball head coach Gary Henderson reaches to hug catcher Dustin Skelton.
Staff Writer

All odds were stacked against Mississippi State for a second-straight year in the NCAA regionals, but the Bulldogs are regional champs for three years in a row.

Just as they did in Hattiesburg in 2017, MSU came back from losing the first game of the Tallahassee Regional and defeated Oklahoma on Monday afternoon 8-1 to take the championship. It was just three days prior that the Sooners dealt the Bulldogs a 20-10 loss in the first game, but Mississippi State beat Florida State 3-2, Samford 9-8 and Oklahoma 13-5 to get back to the title game and win it.

The accomplished feat had the Bulldogs all alone as the one team in NCAA history to lose the opening game of the regional and come back to win the championship in back-to-back seasons. They’re the 23rd team to come back and win in a single regional.

JP France pitched seven innings of two-hit baseball where he gave up just one run and struck out five in his first start since the Jackson State game in the fourth game of the season. Riley Self pitched the final two innings to earn the save.

“The start that JP gave us (Monday) was tremendous,” MSU interim head coach Gary Henderson said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our kids. They fought and they bought in and those are the things that you need to have if you’re going to go into the next weekend.”

The Bulldogs blew a tight game open in the top of the ninth inning when they scored four runs with a two-run single from Jordan Westburg and a two-run home run from Jake Mangum. That homer was the second of the regional for Mangum and the 10th for the team in the five games played in Tallahassee.  

It was the 14th regional win for MSU in 31 tries over the years with two of those coming in four trips to Florida State and the last in 2007. The Bulldogs also improved to 105-76 in NCAA Tournament all-time and are in their eighth super regional since the NCAA went to the format in 1999. MSU has advanced through the super regionals to Omaha just twice during that time.

The Bulldogs had Elijah MacNamee earn Tallahassee Regional Most Valuable Player Honors after getting eight hits for the weekend with three home runs and eight RBI in that stretch. MSU also had Dustin Skelton, Jake Mangum, Rowdey Jordan and France earn All-Regional honors.

For the super regionals, the Bulldogs (35-26) are paired with the Clemson Regional, which was won by No. 2-seeded Vanderbilt. MSU was also a No. 2 in Tallahassee, so the NCAA will select the location for the super regional between either Nashville or Starkville due to take place this weekend.