The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

Diamond Dawgs chop down the Cardinal, one win away from Omaha

A crowd of 13,132 people, once rowdy in response to Mississippi State University’s lead of five runs over Stanford University, fell to complete silence as “Enter Sandman” by Metallica blared over the speakers and as Jack Eagan, a junior left handed pitcher from Wautoma, Wisconsin, lay on the ground in the MSU dugout.

MSU head coach Chris Lemonis could only give a small update on Eagan following the MSU’s 6-2 win over Stanford and Lemonis was close to tears as he explained how hard the situation was for the team. As of Sunday morning, the only update to the situation was that Eagan had been released from the hospital and was cleared to join his teammates in the dugout for the second game of the series. 

“He is stable, and as soon as I leave here I’ll find him and touch base with him and see how him and his family are doing,” Lemonis said. “It was tough. It was a tough probably five to ten minutes for our team—just a group of guys who care a lot about each other. When you see one go down like that, it is tough on everybody.”

In that moment, 13,123 fans, two head coaches and 36 players from each team seemed to hold their breaths as the ball park fell silent. Stanford Head Coach David Esquer comforted one of the MSU players in that moment.

“At that point, it is not Mississippi State versus Stanford, it’s everybody pulling together and saying prayers for the health of another ball player,” Esquer said. “We just wanted to make sure that they knew we were saying prayers too and hope for the best.”

Just five innings before Eagan collapsed, the game had a much different energy to it. The Dude roared with energy, as Jake Mangum robbed a would-be grand slam at the warning track, as he flew in the air reaching his glove back to make the grab and fired it back to the infield.
MSU starting pitcher Ethan Small, a junior from Lexington, Tennessee, said he almost broke his neck turning around to watch Mangum’s catch.
Lemonis said the play by Mangum is just another example of why he is a game changer for the team. 
“He told me after the game that it was the first one he has ever robbed,” Lemonis said. “He just helps you win games in so many ways. Just day in and day out, the way he shows up and plays. It was a huge play and it was a huge play in this ball game.”

The Cardinal scored a run on a sacrifice fly and that one-run lead lasted until the bottom half of the second inning, when MSU tied the game. During the third inning, the Bulldogs scored two more runs to take a 3-1 lead.

During the bottom of the fourth inning, MSU opened the floodgates, pouring on three runs to increase their lead to five runs. It would remain 6-1 until the top of the ninth when Stanford scored a run to make it 6-2. 

The win gave Small his last victory as a starting pitcher for MSU at Dudy Noble Field. Small left the field in the middle of the sixth inning to a roar of applause from the home crowd. He said he just tried to soak up that moment. 

“I was embracing it. I looked up at the crowd and just listened to it one last time,” Small said. “It was a really special moment. I don’t think it has really sunk in yet that this was my last time doing it here. I have been here for so long and pitched so many times in front of that crowd. It doesn’t seem real that it is over.”

With the four-run victory, MSU is now one win away from reaching The College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, a place Lemonis said has been the team’s goal to reach all season. 
“It puts us in a good position, I think our bullpen is in a good position,” Lemonis said. “I think we are in a good spot to come out and play some good baseball tomorrow. We have a good team in the other dugout, so we have to get a good night’s sleep, a good meal and hydrate. We can’t look ahead.”

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Diamond Dawgs chop down the Cardinal, one win away from Omaha