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Connor Hujsak's Back: Bulldogs Thrive From Senior Outfielder's Return, Beat Texas A&M 5-3 in SEC Tournament


Mississippi State Head Coach Chris Lemonis speaks to media following the 5-3 win over Texas A&M


By Doug Kyle


Connor Hujsak's back. Yes, he is, and yes, it's getting better every day, thank you, since the Senior, two years ago a transfer from VCU, returned to the Mississippi State lineup in his familiar centerfield position this week, after sitting out since the SEC series at Arkansas May 10-12 with back issues.


If a hero is nothing but a sandwich, then Hujsak is nothing but a dad gum ball player. For two straight nights, he's come through in the ninth inning with a critical hit that either brought his team from behind to win or broke a tie and led to a win as well.


And, in the SEC Tournament and the world of postseason college baseball, every game is critical, especially when you're trying to entice a selection committee that holds the keys to the car of hosting an NCAA Regional, and a #1 seeding that goes with it.


Just what, you may ask, has Hujsak (pronounced high-zack) done that's so praiseworthy? Good question, better answer.


Tuesday night, with his team down by a single run and down to a single out left, Hujsak drove a home run over the left field wall that scored himself and teammate David Mershon. He made a 1-0 deficit turn into a 2-1 win over Ole Miss, a game his team absolutely could not afford to lose if they wanted a chance to still make their postseason goals.


Wednesday night, it was a similar scenario, except that the opponent was the one with the last crack at things. After getting out to an early 3-0 lead, the opponent, Texas A&M, had steadily hung around and fought back to a 3-3 tie. A&M threatened to take their own lead, but Nate Dohm, himself a recent returnee from injury, was key in keeping the Aggies at bay for two innings and giving the Bulldogs one last shot in the ninth inning. If State couldn't score, having the last time at bat, A&M could score and walk away, just as the Bulldogs had the night before, leaving no second chance.


With three runners on base, Hujsak didn't hit a home run this time, and he didn't need to. With two outs, the runners would be moving at first contact. Hujsak stroked a ground ball single through to center field, two runs scored, and Mississippi State regained the lead, 5-3.


But, the game wasn't over, the Bulldogs still had to get three outs on Texas A&M before giving up two or more runs. Enter Tyler Davis, himself a VCU transfer as well. In a dominating fashion he retired three straight Aggie batters to end the game. Hujsak and his Bulldog teammates had just defeated the team ranked #1 in RPI, a multilevel rating system for college baseball that takes into account not only wins and losses, but the collective strengths of opponents and opponents' opponents.


So now, Mississippi State has 20 wins against SEC member schools. Some don't count for seasonal conference standings, but all of them count for NCAA tournament consideration.


On this night, it's not just another win. The win over Ole Miss permitted the Bulldogs to finish with a 3-2 season record against the rival. The win over Texas A&M moved them to 2-2 against a team to whom they'd lost two out of three on the road earlier in the season, and just wanted a chance to square things.


So, the Bulldogs keep playing in the SEC Tournament, meeting prior seasonal opponent Vanderbilt Thursday night (in yet another late game) a team against whom they had been the one to take two out of three. After a late season swoon, Vandy is on the uptick and found some power earlier in the day Wednesday in taking down its own rival, the Tennesse Volunteers, with four home runs, 15 hits, and a 13-4 final score.


It'll be a tough challenge, for sure, but no more different than the one they faced beating Texas A&M. And, they're proving lately that the one thing you should not and cannot do is take them lightly, or count them out.


Post-game comments from Head Coach Chris Lemonis:




*****

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