OMAHA, Nebraska -- Mississippi State in Game 2 of the 2021 Men's College World Series finals overpowered Vanderbilt by a score of 13-2 on Tuesday at TD Ameritrade Park. That sets up a decisive Game 3 on Wednesday night to determine the national champion for 2021.
Just as they did in Game 1, MSU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning, but this time they were able to make it hold up -- and then some. Bulldogs lefty starter Houston Harding and his singular delivery …
… held Vandy in check with four innings of one run ball. Even better was sophomore right-hander Preston Johnson who allowed one run in five innings of relief while striking out seven Commodores. His deep work out of the pen spared a somewhat fatigued MSU bullpen from a more taxing night, which is key going into Game 3.
Mostly, though, the story was the MSU offense. Against Vandy starter Christian Little and four relievers, they pounded out 14 hits and worked 10 walks. The normally sure-handed Vanderbilt defense committed three errors.
Despite, it would seem, scoring 13 runs, the Bulldogs also managed to leave 14 runners on base -- such was the traffic on the bases in Game 2. MSU scored all those runs with the aid of just two extra base hits, both doubles. No. 9 hitter Lane Forsythe led all comers with three hits on the night, and second baseman Scotty Dubrule drove in four.
A four-run third inning gave MSU a decisive 5-1 lead, and they added another run in the fourth and two more in the fifth. That was prelude to the seventh when the Bulldogs put another five runs on the board, which in essence ended Game 2.
On that note, some encouraging historical trends for MSU:
Since the switch to a best-of-3 CWS Finals in 2003, the winner of Game 2 has won 14-of-17 national titles.— Rob Anderson (@_robanderson) June 30, 2021
Speaking of the decisive Game 3 in this best-of-three series, it has the makings of a legendary pitcher's duel. While the starting pitchers have yet to be announced, it's almost certainly going to be Kumar Rocker for Vanderbilt against Will Bednar of Mississippi State. Rocker figures to be a top 10 pick in the upcoming MLB draft, and Bednar is likely to go toward the end of the first round. Rocker this season overcame inconsistent fastball velocity to pitch to a 2.52 ERA with 173 strikeouts in 117 2/3 innings. Bednar owns a 3.34 ERA with 158 strikeouts against 29 walks in 86 1/3 innings.
Earlier in the CWS, Bednar struck out 15 Texas Longhorns, and Rocker is coming off an 11-strikeout performance against NC State in an elimination game. Rocker faced Mississippi State once this season -- on April 23 in Nashville he pitched a complete game with one earned run allowed on three hits and eight strikeouts against no walks. The very next day, Bednar faced the Commodores and allowed one run in five innings of work with eight strikeouts and three walks. The x-factor could be MSU relief ace Landon Sims, who'll be available on four days of rest.
The stakes are obviously high, what with a national championship on the line. For Vandy, they'll be aiming to repeat. They won the CWS in 2019, and last year's series was cancelled because of COVID. They'll also be playing for their third title, all under head coach Tim Corbin. For Mississippi State, they're one win away from their first national title in any team sport. MSU previously made the CWS final in 2013 but fell to UCLA in two games.