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Mississippi State Wins Classic Rivalry Pitchers' Battle Over Ole Miss 2-1

Connor Hujsak does a post-game interview with The SEC Network after his game-winning walkoff home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning beat arch rival Ole Miss 2-1.

By Doug Kyle

Several times during the Mississippi State-Ole Miss game that concluded Day 1 of the 2024 SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, AL, there were announcements in the press box that post-game media access, usually held in a field-level conference room affectionately called "The Dungeon," would be held on the playing field instead.

The SEC probably didn't realize at the time how prescient that move was, because what ensued in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the raucous post-game celebration of players, and fans behind the nets adoring them like old black and white footage of The Beatles arriving in America, would have been medievally cruel and infamous to have taken place in the cold stale surroundings of The Dungeon.

So, what was all the hubbub? If you're just learning now of the outcome of the game, let's set it up for you. Ole Miss had a 1-0 lead for a great part of the game. How they got the lead was by first baseman Will Furniss, son of the famed LSU slugger/now doctor Eddy Furniss, hitting a long fly ball that State center fielder Connor Hujsak (high-zak, although many fans after the game kept slipping into the phonetic pronunciation) got a glove on just before it bounced off said glove and over the wall for a home run. It was a strange sight, and incredibly the third time in the last four games that such a rarity had visited itself on a Mississippi State outfielder.

And, the run stood up. Why? Because State starter Brooks Auger and Ole Miss starter Riley Maddox were locked in a classic pitchers' duel. For the longest time, neither team could muster a hit, much less a run.

And strangely, Auger was getting the best of everything but the score. He kept mowing down Ole Miss hitters left and right, throwing an incredible game through eight innings of 78 pitches thrown, only 3 hits, zero walks, 13 strikeouts, the absolute game of his life. The saying "It only takes one" was threatening to cruelly prove that point.

Brooks Auger of Mississippi State was pitching the game of his life, zero walks and 13 strikeouts in 8 innings, until one itty bitty something (below) got in the way.

And Maddox was just about matching Auger blow for blow. When he wasn't, he was pitching his way out of trouble, ripping hope out from under the noses of the maroon and white clothed fans in the crowd of 9240 that just couldn't believe the arch rival was going to abscond with Game 5 of the deadlocked 2024 series, not to mention crush State's hopes of hearing their name called later this week when NCAA Regional sites are announced.

Credit Ole Miss with having the motivation to bring such a fight to the arena, when at 11-19 in the SEC, they likely had to win the Tournament to have a chance of the #12 seed being in the Field of 64 on Memorial Day.

And they almost pulled it off. Almost. After changing pitchers in the eighth inning from Maddox to fellow starter Liam Doyle, Ole Miss held off State, and their fans in attendance roared as they came off the field after the bottom of the eighth still in the lead.

But, leading off the ninth inning, David Mershon, the spark plug shortstop and switch hitter who's been in the middle of so many rallies in 2024, walked. He reached second base on a passed ball, but Dakota Jordan struck out. Hunter Hines grounded to first base, but Mershon took third base. As it turned out, he could have stayed at first because Connor Hujsak, coming back from a back injury that had kept him out since the Arkansas series, stepped in and launched a round tripper over the left field wall. And, that was it. From the abyss to being busy playing for something tomorrow.

"Cooler" heads prevailed as Connor Hujsak gets a refreshing shower from teammates to celebrate his home run

Pandemonium ensued with one fan base, shock and disbelief came over the other. State won the game it absolutely had to have. Opinions differ on whether the win solidly nails down a regional host bid, but there was an unhappy consensus on what would have happened had they lost and headed back to Starkville on Wednesday instead of getting ready for Texas A&M.

Asked after the game if he expected to return as Ole Miss Head Coach in 2025, Mike Bianco deferred that decision to his boss, Athletic Director Keith Carter. It will be an outcome watched closely not only by the Rebel fanbase but college baseball in general since Bianco recently hit the 1,000 career victories threshold.

For Mississippi State, the thrill of victory had to subside quickly because waiting for them tomorrow night are the Texas A&M Aggies, who as the 4 seed earned a bye into the double elimination rounds and didn't have to exert themselves physically or emotionally yet. The Battle of the Maroon and White will be must-see viewing, either in person at the Hoover Met, or on HD TV via the SEC Network.

Here are interviews with Hujsak and Lemonis post game:

(All photos and videos courtesy of the Southeastern Conference)

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