When the historic moment arrived for Mississippi State’s baseball program Wednesday evening, it was accompanied by an element of irony: A goal that had eluded the Bulldogs for generations was, in the end, easily attained.
In 1885, just seven years after the school was founded, Mississippi State fielded its first baseball team. State played just three games and won them all, but there was not even a thought of awarding a national championship in baseball in those days, although the team would have had just as much a claim on it as the other teams scattered across the college landscape.
It would take another 62 years before college baseball held its first championship tournament, which began Mississippi State’s 74-year quest for the title.
During those intervening years, the Bulldogs have won buckets of championships — conference titles and regional titles and Super Regional titles, but never captured the ultimate prize.
The annals of MSU baseball are filled with great teams, great players, great seasons. Many seasons have been marked with great strain, heroic effort with clawing and scratching successes and, ultimately, failure.
So, going into Wednesday’s winner-take-all game for the national championship against the favored and two-time champion Vanderbilt Commodores, the final step would be as difficult as all those that preceded it — a desperate struggle whose outcome hinged on a dramatic moment, a play that would be forever remembered as the iconic symbol of MSU for generations to come.
That proved to be hardly the case.
From the first pitch of the game (a fastball MSU’s Rowdey Jordan ripped into right field for a hit) to the final out (the Vandy batter was thrown out on a bunt attempt), the Bulldogs dominated. The 9-0 victory was about as anti-climactic as you will ever see in a College World Series championship game.
The only real suspense in the game was itself indicative of just how thoroughly MSU beat Vandy: Would MSU’s pitchers Will Bednar and Landon Sims combine to throw the first no-hitter in a championship game? The answer was no: Vandy picked up a hit in the eighth inning, its only hit of the game.
Halfway through the game, the outcome was all but certain, which allowed an estimated 20,000 Bulldog fans in attendance and countless thousands of MSU fans watching on TV a chance to begin celebrating the school’s first national championship in a team sport.
That celebration didn’t end Wednesday. It hasn’t ended yet. A parade through downtown Starkville followed by a celebration at Polk-Dement Stadium is scheduled for Friday.
The celebration won’t likely end there, either.
After all, it’s been 136 years since the Bulldogs played their first game. With the ultimate prize now secured, the celebration of it has commenced.
So keep on celebrating, Bulldogs.
You’ve earned it.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.