Bulldogs rally for walk-off win against Ole Miss

Published 9:30 pm Saturday, April 15, 2023

STARKVILLE — A record-setting crowd at Dudy Noble Field got a game — and an ending — worthy of the atmosphere.

Dakota Jordan hit a two-run single in the bottom of the ninth inning for the fourth and final lead change of the game, and to give Mississippi State an 8-7 walk-off win against archrival Ole Miss on Saturday.

With a crowd of 16,423 — the largest in NCAA history for an on-campus game — roaring, Jordan was mobbed by his teammates, had his shirt ripped off, and ran to the outfield wall to celebrate with fans.

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“I blacked out,” said Jordan, who was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and one run scored. “I saw my teammates coming towards me and pointing toward the crowd. You’ve got to give our fans … they came out and did their thing and we did ours.”

Mississippi State players and coaches both said the crowd made a difference. Ole Miss had taken a 7-6 lead by scoring twice in the top of the ninth inning, on an RBI double by Jacob Gonzalez and an RBI single by Anthony Calarco.

The Bulldogs, though, took advantage of some wildness by Ole Miss’ bullpen. Mason Nichols walked Amani Larry on four pitches to start the winning rally and was replaced by Sam Tookoian.

After a sacrifice bunt, Tookoian walked two batters and threw a wild pitch to load the bases. He threw two straight balls to Jordan, and then Jordan chopped the third pitch through the left side of the infield.

Left fielder Kemp Alderman missed the ball as he charged it, and Larry and Colton Ledbetter scored to give the Bulldogs the win.

“He couldn’t throw any pitches for strikes and I was just waiting to get just one pitch,” Jordan said. “I was in a two-strike approach the whole at-bat and waiting to get it, and swing, and get it through the infield.”

It was a sweet bit of redemption for Jordan, a freshman left fielder. He struck out to end a 3-2 loss to the Rebels on Friday night, and said afterward that those were the kinds of moments he wanted to be in. He had to wait less than 24 hours for a second chance, and made the most of it.

“It was exactly what I said. Being up there in that moment, my approach going up there was telling myself to be a hard-nosed guy, do whatever you’ve got to do to get the job done,” Jordan said.

The ninth-inning rally capped a wild back-and-forth game. Ole Miss (20-15, 3-11 Southeastern Conference) let leads of two and three runs slip away, in addition to the lead in the ninth.

Gonzalez’s RBI double in the sixth inning put the Rebels ahead 5-2, but back-to-back home runs by Ledbetter and Hunter Hines in the sixth pulled Mississippi State (21-15, 4-10) back to within a run.

Ledbetter homered again in the seventh, a two-run shot to right field, to put the Bulldogs ahead 6-5. Then, in the top of the ninth, Ole Miss scored twice to go back in front 7-6.

“It’s nice to have an ending like that for those guys, to be able to get a reward for playing hard,” Mississippi State coach Chris Lemonis said. “In front of that crowd and everything else, it was a fun day at the park.”

Ledbetter finished 2-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored for Mississippi State.

Calarco was 3-for-5 with a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored for Ole Miss, and Gonzalez went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

The Bulldogs and Rebels have split the first two games of the series. The finale is Sunday at 1 p.m., and will streamed on ESPN+.