Mississippi State 2, Texas 1: After striking out in Omaha, Horns insist 'We're not done yet'
OMAHA, Neb. — As Will Bednar was pulled from his start in the seventh inning at the College World Series on Sunday night, many of the Texas fans in attendance stood and applauded.
Bednar is not a Longhorn. He's a Mississippi State freshman who was raised in Pennsylvania. But real recognizes real, and all UT fans could do was tip their caps after his 15-strikeout performance in the Bulldogs' 2-1 victory at TD Ameritrade Park.
Unable to solve either Bednar or reliever Landon Sims in its CWS opener, Texas (47-16) now must scramble to save its season. The Longhorns and Tennessee (50-17) will meet in an elimination game on Tuesday afternoon.
"I think everybody knows it was frustrating. But on to the next day," Texas pitcher Ty Madden said. "Just take things one day at a time and one pitch at a time. I still believe in this team, and I think everybody here does. We're not done yet."
Texas wound up striking out 21 times. The last time a Longhorns team struck out 20 or more times was in 2015, though that 6-3 loss to Oklahoma State lasted 18 innings.
That Mississippi State (46-16) compiled a bunch of strikeouts was not a surprise. In a media availability last week, Texas coach David Pierce noted that Mississippi State had registered an "unheard of number" of strikeouts this season.
Three teams have struck out 700 batters in 2021. Ole Miss recorded an NCAA-record 765 of them this season while Vanderbilt moved to 718 strikeouts during a 12-inning win over Arizona on Saturday.
Mississippi State entered Sunday with 744 strikeouts. Nine innings later, the Bulldogs had a share of Ole Miss' record.
Bednar struck out seven straight Longhorns at one point, and he also had a separate six-strikeout streak. By the time he had gone through the Texas batting order twice, he had struck out every Longhorns starter at least once. The second-year right-hander bested his career high by two strikeouts.
"I felt like it was a great performance, probably my best ever, especially on this big of a stage," Bednar said. "It was really cool. But I felt like fastball was playing really well up in the zone. And slider played really well, too."
After Bednar walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh, Mississippi State turned to Sims. During an 8-3 win over Texas on Feb. 20, Sims was responsible for 10 of Mississippi State's 18 strikeouts. Exactly four months later, he struck out six more Longhorns.
"Bednar, still haven't figured him out," Pierce said. "He's a spin-rate guy. And the ball just doesn't lose plane. Just seemed like we were swinging underneath it the entire game. And then Sims is Sims. We expected that."
Texas was limited to four hits. Much of that offensive production came in the final frame.
Trailing 2-0, Texas got a leadoff home run from Mike Antico in the bottom of the ninth. Two outs later, Ivan Melendez capped an 11-pitch battle against Sims with a single and Cam Williams followed that with another hit. Texas could not complete the rally, though, and the tying run was stranded at third base when Douglas Hodo III grounded out.
"I thought it was a hell of an at-bat by Ivan against really good stuff," Pierce said. "We just have to have more of that grit going into Tuesday's game."
Not to be overshadowed, Madden struck out 10 batters himself. Over seven innings, he allowed four hits and two walks.
In the fourth inning, Madden was burned by a leadoff walk that came around to score. Mississippi State tacked on an additional run when Brad Cumbest's two-out triple just eluded Hodo's glove in right field.
The loss was the fifth of Madden's All-America season. The Longhorns will now turn to Tristan Stevens, who was an all-conference honoree. He has a 2.97 ERA. His 11 wins led the Big 12.
"I told him (after the game) I believe in him and I love him," Madden said of Stevens. "It's his time to go."
Around the bases: Mississippi State advanced to play Virginia on Tuesday. Virginia opened its CWS with a 6-0 win over Tennessee. ... A seventh-inning walk helped Texas first baseman Zach Zubia extend his on-base streak to 39 games. ... Catcher Silas Ardoin threw out two Bulldogs who were attempting to steal a base. ... Pete Hansen pitched two innings of one-hit relief for UT.