There are surely bright days ahead for Luke Hancock. Whether it's in baseball or something else, the 21-year-old Houston, Mississippi, native has plenty of time ahead of him to do great things. For now though, there's a new leader in the clubhouse for Hancock's top memory.
Hancock stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the ninth on Saturday and delivered a walk-off grand slam as No. 5 Mississippi State scored six total times in the frame to beat Tulane 9-5 at Dudy Noble Field.
Hancock swung. The ball sailed deep and far – 404 feet to right field to be exact. Dudy Noble was rocking and Hancock...well he was essentially floating on air around the bases.
"I think that's the best moment of my life," Hancock said postgame. "That's something you dream of. You come up to the plate with the bases loaded. Tie ballgame in the ninth (and) been down the whole game. Then having the opportunity to go up there and do that, it was special."
(SEE HANCOCK'S FULL POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE WITH THE VIDEO AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE)
Hancock's shot put the lid on a furious Mississippi State come-from-behind victory. The Bulldogs trailed 5-3 entering the bottom of the ninth.
But Rowdey Jordan gave MSU hope with a leadoff single. Scotty Dubrule had Starkville buzzing when he followed with a base hit of his own. After Tanner Allen walked to load the bases with nobody out, Logan Tanner then tied things up with a sharp single to left that scored both Jordan and Dubrule. Just like that, a Bulldog team that'd trailed since the second inning was back even.
"Logan Tanner had the biggest hit of the day," Hancock said. "Bases loaded, no outs and he hits the ball into the gap to score two runs."
If Tanner's clutch knock was the biggest hit of the day, Hancock's wins the distinction for the most electric. Hancock came up following an intentional walk to Josh Hatcher. With Tanner standing at second (he'd advanced there on a throw home following his single) and Allen on third, Tulane was attempting to set up a force play at home. The Green Wave was trying to give itself the best chance to force extra innings. There are no force plays on balls hit over the outfield wall though. On the first pitch of his at-bat, Hancock delivered the hit he'll remember forever.
His teammates won't soon forget either. Landon Sims – the State pitching hero of the day with 3.2 innings of relief in which he gave up just one run and struck out 10 – was overjoyed at Hancock's heroics.
"That's the best moment I've had at Mississippi State so far," Sims said. "We had all the confidence in the world with Luke up there...I was on the top step at about the middle of the dugout. Right when he hit it, we all knew. You stand there for a few seconds and you're like, 'Holy cow, that just happened.' It's an awesome feeling."
Hancock's homer was a series-altering shot for MSU. The Bulldogs (4-2) looked for most of the day as though they were about to drop a second-straight game to Tulane (3-3) after the Green Wave won 7-3 on Friday.
The two teams went back and forth over the first inning and a half on Saturday. Tulane got to MSU starting pitcher Eric Cerantola for a run in the first. Allen then responded with a two-run homer for the Bulldogs in the home half of the opening frame. Tulane recaptured the lead with a two-run Trevor Minder single off of Cerantola in the second.
Tulane added a run in the sixth, as did MSU when Kamren James cranked a solo home run. The Green Wave went up 5-3 with a Chase Engelhard long ball in the eighth. With State's offense struggling, it seemed as though the two-run deficit late might be too much to overcome. But the Bulldogs had dramatics left in them.
"We're going to continue to fight until that last pitch is thrown," Hancock said. "We don't care how many we're down by. We go up there every single time to do damage. And just to make the pitchers work, from the other team. Just make them work and throw a lot of pitches. Luckily in that ninth, we put together a few hits in a row and came out on top."
And it was Hancock landing the deciding haymaker, giving himself a moment of a lifetime and setting a high bar for himself to try and top down the line.
"(To hit the grand slam) especially after the day I was having – I was 0-for-4 (at the time)," Hancock said. "So doing that to end my day was pretty special.
"We had to get that win (Saturday). It was a big game for us after getting beat (Friday). We knew we had to have it."
It all gives State a chance to capture the series win in Sunday's game, which is now set for a noon central start. Freshman Jackson Fristoe is scheduled to start on the mound for the Bulldogs. Expected weekend starter Will Bednar will miss action for a second-straight week as he remains day-to-day with what was described by MSU head coach Chris Lemonis previously as a neck injury.