Rally Banana inspires Mississippi State’s charge to College World Series

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2018

It started, as these things often do, as a lighthearted and coincidental goof whose exact origins are shrouded in mystery. In this case, it was a snack and leftovers.

“Apparently Jordan (Westburg) was hungry, so he got a banana. Then he had another one and started playing around with it,” Mississippi State pitcher Cole Gordon said at a press conference Tuesday, before the team left for Omaha and the College World Series. “He did the radar gun, put sunscreen on it and bug spray at one point. Last game it was at the spa so it had a towel and was able to relax the whole game.”

And, with that, the Rally Banana was born.

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Westburg’s antics spawned a mascot for Mississippi State’s baseball team and fans as they surged toward a College World Series berth. Fans are bananas for the Bulldogs, with stuffed and inflatable bananas popping up all over the place. The team posed with several large bananas after beating Vanderbilt to win a super regional series Sunday night.

The Rally Banana even has its own Twitter account. Banana memes have taken over fan pages, with fans posting pictures of themselves dressed in banana costumes or posing with the fruit.

“Real, fake, you name it. Not even a week after, there’s T-shirts. It’s crazy. There’s going to be so many inflatable bananas flying around it’s going to be insane,” Mississippi State center fielder Jake Mangum said. “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work.”

If that’s the case, this is normal as can be. Since Westburg, a freshman third baseman and designated hitter, created the Rally Banana during the Tallahassee Regional, the Bulldogs have won six out of seven games to punch their ticket to Omaha.

Mississippi State is 6-1 overall since losing 20-10 to Oklahoma in the opening game of the Tallahassee Regional. It has scored 53 runs in those six victories.

Westburg is hitting just .238 (5-for-21) in the last six games, but has hit safely in four of them and has two doubles and four RBIs. Greater than his contributions at the plate, however, has been the one he made to launch a phenomenon in Starkville.

“Every year has their thing, a quirk, and how it gets you going,” Gordon said. “How Jordan has handled this and turned it into something fun keeps us loose and excited, and it’s a reason to laugh in the dugout when times get tense.”

There have certainly been plenty of those times. Mississippi State has won five elimination games — four at the Tallahassee Regional and another in last weekend’s super regional against Vanderbilt — during the NCAA Tournament.

The Bulldogs have scored the eventual winning run three times in their final at-bat, twice with walk-off home runs, and played three games decided by one run. They’re living on the edge, but living loose, just like interim head coach Gary Henderson wants.

“I’m glad that the kids are having a good time. I want them to be loose, I want them to be confident, I want them to play on the edge. I want them to like being in the dugout. All of those things come into play,” Henderson said. “I don’t know the exact moment I learned of the importance and value of the Rally Banana. I guess we’re attributing it to Jordan Westburg. Our fans have adopted it and they love it, so I’m all for it.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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