OMAHA, Neb. — The Texas Longhorns baseball team avoided elimination from the College World Series (CWS) yet again after beating Mississippi State, 8-5.
This is the first game Mississippi State lost in the 2021 CWS, and comes after Texas fell to the Bulldogs in their first game of the series.
Texas had the lead for most of the game until Mississippi State tied the game 5-5 in the eighth inning. Right at the top of the ninth inning, Texas's Ivan Melendez hit a tie-breaking home run, setting the score at 8-5.
“I believe that our team is playing at a very high level, not only with confidence but with their skill set right now and I don’t think we’re going to give in at all,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “The game gets back to even now and we’re going to go out and compete like we do and see what happens.”
Mississippi State had scored three runs in the eighth to tie it 5-5 before Mike Antico drew a leadoff walk against Brandon Smith starting the ninth. Parker Stinnett came on and walked Zach Zubia before Melendez sent a 3-2 pitch deep into the left-center bleachers.
“Off the bat it felt pretty good,” Melendez said. “I knew it was a homer for sure.”
Following another walk, light rain turned heavy and the grounds crew rolled out the tarp to begin a delay lasting 2 hours, 27 minutes.
“Long night at the ballpark,” MSU coach Chris Lemonis said. “We don’t throw enough strikes. I think we walked 11 guys tonight. It’s hard to beat anybody when you walk 11 guys.”
Melendez’s homer was his second game-winning hit in less than 24 hours. He had the tie-breaking base hit in the eighth inning in a 6-2 victory over Virginia in a game that ended early Friday.
Melendez had entered the Virginia game 3 for his last 19 at-bats with no RBIs. The All-Big 12 designated hitter is 4 for 10 with a double, homer and five RBIs since.
Texas reliever Tanner Witt, who pitched 5 2/3 innings of shutout relief against Tennessee on Tuesday, encountered control problems after a smooth seventh against the Bulldogs.
He walked three straight to bring in one run, and after Aaron Nixon entered with the bases loaded, Brad Cumbest’s hard liner off second baseman Mitchell Daly’s glove drove in two more.
Ty Madden was sharp for a second straight start for Texas. He struck out 10 in seven innings in a 2-1 loss to MSU on Sunday. In that game, Bulldogs ace Will Bednar struck out 15 and Texas fanned a CWS-record 21 times.
This time Madden held the Bulldogs to one hit and no runs over his last five innings after MSU took a quick 2-0 lead.
The Longhorns took their first lead in the fifth on Mike Antico’s single, and they added two more runs in the seventh after MSU center fielder Rowdey Jordan lost track of Trey Faltine’s high fly to start the inning. Faldine ended up on second with a double and scored on Antico’s single, and Melendez’s base hit made it a three-run game.
UT will now face Mississippi State yet again on Saturday to advance to the CWS Final.
Texas is 1-2 against Mississippi State so far this season. The Longhorns lost to the Bulldogs in the season opener, 8-3, at Globe Life Field in Arlington. The second loss came in the first game of this College World Series double-elimination bracket when the Longhorns fell 2-1.
Already in the finals is Vanderbilt. The reigning national champion Commodores automatically advanced when the NCAA announced early Saturday that North Carolina State was out of the tournament because of COVID-19 protocols.
If UT loses to Mississippi State on Saturday, the Bulldogs will advance to the CWS Final and the Longhorns' season will be over.
This is UT's 37th trip to the College World Series, which is the most in the nation. The last time UT made the CWS final series was in 2009 when the Longhorns lost to LSU. UT's last baseball national championship came in 2005. Overall, Texas Baseball has won six baseball national championships and has finished runner-up six more times.
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