Bases loaded. Two outs. Tie ballgame.
The series was on the line in the bottom of the sixth inning on Sunday as No. 4 Mississippi State squared off with No. 6 Ole Miss. The Bulldogs and Rebels had split the weekend's first two games and here, with the score knotted at 4-4, it appeared the pivot point of this weekend's festivities had arrived. Luckily for MSU, the man with the spotlight on him was Tanner Allen.
"I just turned to one of our coaches and said, 'This is the guy you want at the plate,'" State head coach Chris Lemonis recounted later. "If anybody is going to do it, it’s going to be (Allen)."
And do it, Allen did. He laced a bases-clearing triple into the right-centerfield gap, Dudy Noble Field was sent into a frenzy, MSU led by three and would hold on for a 7-5 win over the rival Rebels.
The win not only gave State the weekend series, it cemented a 16th win over Ole Miss in the last 19 tries. And while recent Bulldog dominance over the Rebels continued, it was far from easy. State had to earn it each step of the way.
Even before Sunday's first pitch, MSU was reeling having been shut out by Ole Miss' left-hander Doug Nikhazy the day before. State needed to bounce back. A Bulldog legend chimed in to make sure his old team knew what they had to do as Jake Mangum sent a pregame text to Allen.
"He texted me this morning and said, 'Hey, we don't lose to that team up there,'" Allen said of Mangum's message. "I said, 'I know. Trust me.'"
Only a few hours later, Allen made sure to make the man sometimes called 'The Mayor' happy.
But while Allen stole the spotlight on this day, his supporting cast laid the foundation for his heroics. Rowdey Jordan had a four-hit game. The previously-struggling bats of Scotty Dubrule and Josh Hatcher each had big singles in the sixth ahead of Allen's game-deciding shot to the gap.
"I think some of our better at-bats were at the end of the game," Lemonis said. "Just battled and put the ball in play. I think those guys did a great job."
The five-run, sixth-inning rally turned Sunday's game completely on its head. Ole Miss had built a 4-2 lead through 5 1/2 innings. The Rebels had gotten to MSU starter Jackson Fristoe for an early run before Ole Miss' Hayden Leatherwood cranked a pair of homers off of State reliever Houston Harding. Leatherwood had a solo shot in the fourth and a two-run bomb in the sixth. The Dogs were down 4-2, but not out. MSU went to work on the Ole Miss bullpen.
After Rebel starter Drew McDaniel was pulled with one out and the bases empty in the sixth, State got three straight singles from Logan Tanner, Hatcher and Brayland Skinner. That cut MSU's deficit to 4-3. After Lane Forsythe struck out, Dubrule delivered a game-tying single to left.
Jordan followed with an infield single that loaded the bases. And here came Allen about to have a swing that won't soon be forgotten in Starkville.
Ole Miss turned the game over to its top reliever, Taylor Broadway, to try and wiggle out of the mess. Allen didn't let it happen. He got ahead in the count 2-0 and Allen made the MSU magic happen.
"I knew I had to win the first pitch," Allen said of the at-bat. "I wasn't going to let (Broadway) sneak a fastball by me. The report was that he's got a really good fastball so normally guys that throw really hard will try to throw it by you. When I had him 2-0 with the bases loaded in a clutch part of the game, I knew he didn't want to walk the go-ahead run in so he had to give me one. All I did was geared up for the fastball and tried to backspin the ball in the gap. I made a good swing and the rest is history."
Ole Miss did put up late fight in a bid to come back. The Rebels left the bases loaded in the seventh against MSU reliever Parker Stinnett, then scored an unearned run in the eighth off of Brandon Smith.
In the ninth though, State slammed the door. Landon Sims entered for the Bulldogs and, while he had to pitch around a two-out error, indeed nailed things down for MSU.
With that, once again, baseball bragging rights in the Magnolia State reside in Starkville. And while there's no mistaking how big it was for the Bulldogs to win this series and inch closer to being a national seed, the fact remains the Southeastern Conference schedule is only half done.
Next weekend, MSU heads to Vanderbilt to face the two-headed monster of top-tier pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter. The Bulldogs know they'll have to bring it again or the jubilation of winning the Ole Miss series will quickly be a thing of the past.
"(Coach Lemonis) does a meeting after each game and I was sitting there thinking, 'We're going to enjoy this one the rest of the day, but Monday comes around and it's a really, really big week,'" Allen said. "We're going to Nashville to face two of the best pitchers in the entire country. We're gonna enjoy (the win over Ole Miss) but we're gonna move forward. It's gonna be a big weekend (next weekend) for us."
(FOR ALLEN'S FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE, SEE THE VIDEO AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE. CLICK HERE FOR CHRIS LEMONIS' FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE. LANDON SIMS' FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE IS BELOW.)
Alright, let's have a look at Sunday's numbers, game MVPs, the Moment of the Game and a couple of notes.
Ole Miss at Mississippi State box score
MSU Offensive MVP: RF Tanner Allen
With the swing that made Starkville shake, there's no denying Allen stole the show offensively on Sunday. Yes, he had plenty of help setting it all up. He'd be the first to tell you that. But someone had to deliver, and Allen did.
"It was a good match up for us," Lemonis said of when Allen came up to the plate. "When (Broadway) fell behind 2-0, I had a feeling that (Allen) was going to get a swing off. He’s been really good of late. When we’ve needed a big hit, he’s gotten it for us."
MSU Pitching MVP: RP Landon Sims
There may be no more comforting feeling in college baseball than to have a guy like Sims at the back of the bullpen. And on Sunday, he notched his second save of the weekend with a scoreless, hitless ninth to make sure all the MSU mid-inning heroics didn't go to waste.
They say the last three outs of the game are the hardest to get. But even on a pressure-packed day, Sims still made relatively quick work of the Rebels in the ninth to ensure the Bulldogs a successful weekend.
For more from Sims, check out his full postgame press conference right here:
Moment of the Game: Allen clears the bags
You've read enough about it at this point. How about we just show it. Here's a couple of looks at the biggest swing of the game – Allen's three-run triple: