Prior to my time as a student, I had never actually been to a regional round game. Starkville had only hosted regionals twice recently (13 and 16), and we were on family vacations during both of them. In 2013, I remember keeping up with the first Central Arkansas game whilst at the Grand Canyon and the South Alabama game whilst driving around the Grand Canyon and into southern Utah (and losing service around the 7th inning, had to wait a couple hours to finally get the final). In 2016, I remember watching the final outs of the regional championship on my phone in a hotel bed as everyone else was asleep.
So me and a couple friends attended all 5 games in Hattiesburg in 2017. Spent a lot of time in the Thad Cochran Center (very nice) and Reed Green Coliseum (not nice) during rain delays. Great times.
Leading up to that regional, one of the things I most remember was the vitriol of USM fans. I go for them in most sports, but holy crap do they get on their high horse about baseball. (this made winning the regional that much sweeter!!) Had a dude refuse to sell me a ticket to my face because I was wearing a State shirt. Getting tickets was really hard in their tiny stadium, but we managed to find our way into all 5 games.
Anyway, onto the games. We lost game 1 to South Alabama on Friday, and the Saturday games were rained out. Still managed to have a fun day in Hattiesburg on that Saturday though; that was a sign of good things to come.
In two games on Sunday, we scraped by UIC (love the Flames) and then knocked out South Alabama to finally get to play USM. Note that at this point we were almost out of pitching and had no expectations of winning the regional. Just to illustrate the lack of confidence, after the Sunday Night South Alabama game, a player’s mother told us “Well this season’s about over, isn’t it.” In whatever the opposite of irony is, that player later transferred and ended up at USM.
On Monday night, State and USM played a doubleheader that extended into early Tuesday morning. Against all odds, again with basically no pitching left, State won twice and knocked USM out of their own regional. Those games in Hattiesburg were an incredible way to cap my freshman year of college. Winning is so much fun when you have basically nothing to lose, and ruining USM’s season was the icing on the cake.
Important to add, those events did not hinder USM’s cockiness one bit. They did sweep us in Hattiesburg to start the next season- of course our coach got fired the day afterwards for, well we all know why. And we made it to Omaha that season while USM lost in a regional- again. And in 2019, they beat us again in the opening game. But we won the next two to win the series and made it to Omaha- again, whilst they of course did not. But don’t tell their fans that they’re not the premiere program in the state.
2018 TALLAHASSEE REGIONAL- In 2018, State was again a two seed and traveled to Tallahassee. I didn’t make the trek this time, so was back watching on TV. And what I watched was pretty unbelievable.
MacNamee’s walk-off against Florida State is, in my opinion, the greatest single-moment in Mississippi State Baseball history. If not for Morgan William, it would be #1 in all sports.
And I called it. Somewhat sarcastically, but hey nonetheless.
The funny thing about the Tallahassee Regional is that once the walk-off happened, it felt like we had the regional in the bag, even though there were three games left. Unlike Hattiesburg where we were on edge every minute, Tallahassee felt like cruise control after that.
The regional started with a Friday afternoon win against the 4 seed Southern. Started off pretty slow but was nice to actually win game 1 of a regional for the first time in 3 years. That night, we hung around the dude for the 2/3 game, and ended up sitting with some Central Michigan parents/fans. Was a fun night- the Chippewas were super lively as they upset Miami that night.
The next day, we got to the ballpark early and set up chairs in the berm for the night game. Watched as Miami eliminated Southern and later actually went to Davis Wade to watch some of the ongoing Top Dawg Camp. That night, we were in the berms as Ethan Small and Tanner Allen took care of the Chippewas to advance to the Regional Championship.
On Sunday, we again got to the park early and set up chairs for the night game and hung around the stadium while watching the elimination game. At one point, we went down by the Central Michigan bullpen, where one of their pitchers shared his uncensored thoughts about Miami. That night, we were set up in the berm for the championship game against Miami. This was the game where we realized why we usually don’t sit on the berms, as an old lady yelled at me and one of my friends to sit down- when Jake Mangum was motioning for everyone to get up. I think I got the last laugh there though.