STARKVILLE — At some point when Mississippi State second baseman Amani Larry began rounding the bases following his game-winning two-run homer Thursday night against Texas A&M, everything turned to a blur.
The moment was that big. His home run was even bigger, especially when it came to keeping the Bulldogs’ postseason hopes alive.
“Emotions were running pretty high,” Larry said. “I might have blacked out around the bases.”
MSU baseball’s 10-8 walk-off victory over the Aggies, its third straight come-from-behind win in Southeastern Conference play, felt like it was stewing in “Dude Effect” all night.
That’s the vibe around this team right now. There are nine innings and 27 outs in a baseball game and these Bulldogs plan to use every single one of them.
If it wasn’t clear after last weekend in Baton Rouge, when they took two of three against mighty LSU, it should be now; someone may need to physically restrain these Bulldogs from getting to Hoover, because they certainly aren’t doing it on their own.
“We are not playing perfect by any means, but you are going to have to get us out in the ninth,” MSU head coach Chris Lemonis said. “These guys aren’t giving in.”
Thursday’s win, paired with LSU’s extra-inning victory at Georgia AND Missouri getting rained out at Auburn, put MSU just one game back of Georgia and 1 1/2 games back of the Tigers, who will play in a Friday double-header, for the final spot in Hoover.
The fact MSU (27-24, 9-19 SEC) is still even in this position, after two separate seven-game SEC losing streaks, is somewhat of a shocker. Well, to everyone who isn’t in MSU’s locker room.
“It is mainly that we believe, which is crazy,” said Larry, a transfer from New Orleans who hit a solo home run earlier in the game. “We just continue to believe no matter what the score is. In Baton Rouge, we just continued to believe. We just believe in each other.”
That’s not Ted Lasso speaking. Just a guy, who doesn’t have plans to watch his team’s season end by Saturday afternoon, which would be the case if MSU doesn’t qualify for the SEC Tournament.
Thursday’s game could have played out like some many previous SEC contests MSU has been in this season. Its pitchers couldn’t throw strikes, walking 15 batters (two of which were intentional by Lemonis). Anytime the Bulldogs scored a run, tied the game or took the lead, the Aggies answered right back.
The Bulldogs were staring at a 7-2 deficit in the teeth, only to come back to tie the game in the sixth, then immediately give up a solo home run by A&M’s Ryan Targac the next half-inning to fall behind again.
What felt like a last-gasp effort, trailing 8-7 in the eight, went by the wayside when Hunter Hines grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded. That could have been the game. That could have been the season.
Then the ninth inning happened. An inning that began with Dakota Jordan’s leadoff walk, and was kept alive by Bryce Chance’s pinch-hit walk after being down 1-2 in the count.
Jordan later tied the game, scoring on a wild pitch and Larry ended it with his two-run blast.
Nobody is more aware of MSU’s situation than its players, and its coach that have heard about the failing expectations for months from a proud fanbase.
But right now, the Bulldogs are reveling with their backs against the wall, and getting themselves hot at the right time.
“Everybody has pressure right now,” Lemonis said. “They (Texas A&M) are playing for something. We are playing for something. Every team in our league is playing for something. Winning on Thursday night gives you an opportunity.”
Justin Frommer is the Mississippi State sports reporter for The Dispatch.
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