Mississippi State and Washington, in the view of many outside the states of Mississippi and Washington, shouldn’t be in the College World Series. Both teams seeded lower into their respective regional tilts — CLANGA a two-seed and the Huskies a three-seed — but they’re in Omaha playing with house money, and on Saturday gave us the most college baseball game you could imagine.
The Bulldogs weathered a 20-10 shellacking at the hands of Oklahoma on the NCAA baseball tournament’s opening day, then refused to lose in the Tallahassee regional to advance and win in the Nashville super. They were firmly on the bubble of tournament consideration back on Selection Monday, but their late-season series sweep of No. 1 Florida pushed them in at the last minute.
Washington, on the other hand, played their way out of the Conway regional hosted by Coastal Carolina — winners of this tournament two years ago — to earn a spot in the Fullerton super regional, where the Huskies overcame perennial powerhouse Cal State Fullerton in three games. Each of them were tight, and Washington has clearly demonstrated that these Huskies can hang with anybody.
So, while Oregon State dropped the CWS opener to North Carolina in an 8-6 runs-fest earlier on Saturday afternoon, Washington and Mississippi State went late with a low-scoring, tight-lipped burner. And by tight-lipped, we mean they carried a 0-0 tie into the ninth inning.
A classic pitchers’ duel, replete with stellar fielding defense, especially at shortstop.
This game contained so much inside baseball that Mississippi State skipper Gary Henderson pulled reliever Cole Gordon in the top of the ninth after just 10 pitches to put a southpaw on the hill to face Washington’s big bat, Joe Wainhouse. Wainhouse, who bats as a left-hander, hits .330 against righties and .301 against lefties, so the decision is understandable, but that’s how tense these proceedings were.
Gordon’s replacement, Zach Neff, fanned Wainhouse to secure the inning’s second out.
Again, they went into the bottom of the final frame tied, 0-0.
In the bottom of the ninth, Washington closer Alex Hardy threw a first pitch strike on a curve, then a second strike on a fastball away, then hung a breaking pitch up over the plate and Luke Alexander slammed that thing deep into right field. That was fortuitous, because Bulldog runners were at first and second, and big old bat Hunter Stovall scrambled home to secure a 1-0 win. ONE TO ZERO. IN COLLEGE BASEBALL. IN OMAHA. Just wild.
With the win, Mississippi State will face off with North Carolina on Monday, while the Huskies will take on Pac-12 rival Oregon State in the losers’ bracket of this side of the Series. We’re just two games into this year’s CWS, and things are already spinning out of control.