STARKVILLE — Tanner Allen wanted to be alone.
When he struck out with the bases loaded to end the bottom of the seventh inning with No. 4 Mississippi State still trailing Texas A&M by a run, Allen discarded his helmet, pulled on his baseball cap and walked straight to right field, as he normally does, for the top of the eighth.
He realized he wasn’t as disappointed as he expected to be. Allen reasoned with himself as he stood in the outfield grass.
“I’m going to probably have another opportunity in this game to determine the outcome, so I need to just flush that one,” Allen thought.
In the end, he got two. He smacked a hard ground ball to second base in the 10th inning, making the first out. And when he came up for the seventh time Friday night against the Aggies’ Alex Magers in the 12th, he was ready to make more magic at Dudy Noble Field.
Allen lined a 2-0 pitch from Magers into the right-field stands, giving Mississippi State (30-10, 12-7 SEC) a marathon win over Texas A&M (24-20, 5-14 SEC) in a game that lasted just under five hours.
“It was only a matter of time before he got up there and did something to win the game,” reliever Landon Sims said of Allen. “We expect it from him, really. He comes through in the clutch a lot of the time.”
The senior did so once again Friday to deliver his team a victory that erased the sting of the past 11 innings: the 15 runners the Bulldogs left on base, the defensive miscues that gave the Aggies life, the poor pitching that put A&M ahead.
“You’re always happy when you win,” coach Chris Lemonis said. “It takes away a lot of the bad during the game.”
Lemonis rightly said Friday wasn’t the Bulldogs’ best game in many areas. Starter Christian MacLeod completed just four innings as an error by third baseman Kamren James brought home two Aggie runs in the top of the fourth. A&M added three more in the seventh inning with a pair of home runs, including a tying two-run shot by Bryce Blaum off reliever Chase Patrick.
But Mississippi State rallied, as the Bulldogs have been wont to do all season. In the bottom of the seventh, catcher Logan Tanner followed a walk by James and a single by designated hitter Luke Hancock with a three-run homer to right field to cut a 7-3 deficit to one run.
The Bulldogs scratched across the tying run in the ninth as left fielder Brad Cumbest led off with a double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from shortstop Lane Forsythe.
Then Sims proved his usual dominant self. Entering in the 10th inning as the Bulldogs’ seventh reliever of the night, he pitched three hitless innings and struck out seven Aggies to earn the win on the mound.
“As soon as he comes out of that bullpen, our fans see it, our players see it, our coaches see it, and it brings energy,” Lemonis said. “He’s done it all year long, he’s had a lot of success, and he’s a lot of fun to play behind.”
Sims said he was ready to go as long as the Bulldogs would need him but was glad to see Allen end it in the 12th. It was a hit the sophomore right-hander said he knew would come after entering in a tie game.
“It almost made me a little more relaxed than usual,” Sims said. “If I just keep the game where it’s at, I know eventually we’re going to clutch up a hit and win the ballgame.”
In the 10th, the Bulldogs came close. A pair of hit batsmen and a walk set up pinch-hitter Brayland Skinner with the bases loaded and two out, but Skinner hit a grounder to first to extend the game.
The Bulldogs went down 1-2-3 in the 11th before Allen led off the 12th. He watched a slider from Magers, then took a fastball. When another heater came in toward the top of the zone, Allen drove it just above the wall in right field — the perfect outcome for a player who admitted he was “ready to go home.”
He got to depart with another magic moment at Dudy Noble in front of nearly all of the 8,949 fans who entered the ballpark, most of whom remained late into the night.
“I can’t put it in words, man,” Allen said. “I’m so thankful our fans stayed there as late as they did.”
Bulldogs fans will be back soon for plenty more baseball. Right after the final out, Mississippi State announced plans for a doubleheader Saturday. Game 1 will be at 2 p.m. and Game 2 at 6 p.m. as the Dawgs and Aggies round out the series early ahead of potential bad weather.