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Late Mississippi State Rally Falls Short In 4-3 Loss To Vanderbilt At SECT



By Doug Kyle


Their first two games in the 2024 Southeastern Conference Baseball Tournament this week, the Mississippi State Bulldogs scored a pair of runs in the 9th inning each night. That was enough to win the game, because they went in trailing Ole Miss by only a single run on Tuesday night and tied with Texas A&M on Wednesday night.


On Thursday night, the deficit to Vanderbilt was three runs, which were ultimately not overcome, and the one-run defeat sent the Bulldogs into a Friday night elimination contest against the SEC co-champion Tennessee Volunteers. The game doesn't have a set start time, since it follows the first game of the day (at 3:00 pm), usually around 30 minutes later.


While those two Friday games are technically still within the double elimination middle portion of the bracket, the games match teams that have already lost once, so with the Semifinals on Saturday and the Championship Game on Sunday both designated as single elimination, essentially every team remaining cannot lose again or they are eliminated.


On this night, the start of the game looked promising for Mississippi State. Switch pitcher Jurrangelo Cijntje (sane-juh) mowed down the first six Commodore hitters he faced, all on swinging strikeouts. The third inning was another matter, though. A leadoff single broke the streak, then a bunt attempt followed that Cijntje fielded on the first base line but couldn't beat the runner to the bag. Another bunt got an out but moved the runners, and after a hit batsmen loaded the bases, another single brought home two runs.


The teams swapped single runs in the 5th and 6th innings, then Vanderbilt added another run in the 7th off reliever Gavin Black to take a 4-1 lead into the bottom of the 9th. The Bulldogs threatened along the way, leaving 11 runners on base to Vanderbilt's 5. In the 9th, State was down to their last out before things started to happen. David Mershon singled, Connor Hujsak (high-zack) drove an RBI triple to center field, Nate Chester's single scored Hujsak, but Logan Kohler's ground ball ended the game with the Bulldogs a run short.


With the two tournament wins and a neutral site win over Ole Miss added to the 17 regular season conference wins--good for 5th place in the league generally regarded as the best in college baseball--Mississippi State feels confident about the chances of hosting an NCAA Regional at Dudy Noble Field, the ball park that holds 24 of 25 NCAA campus attendance records (some of them as past regional hosts) and is also regarded as one of the most impressive stadiums as well. "The Dude" doesn't have uniqueness in just the outfield seating and rigs, there's a festive and exciting mood in the right field and left field berm groups, and the condo-like lofts and rooftop deck beyond the left field fence add even more atmosphere to a game there.


Many opposing teams during tournament field selection each year long for their name to be listed in a Mississippi State-hosted bracket, given the well-known custom of grilled outfield cuisine being shared with visiting athletes after the conclusion of games. Win or lose Friday night, the team has clinched that they'll still be playing next weekend, and there's a very good chance it will be in a familiar place.


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