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College Baseball

Mars Alum Will Bednar Leads Mississippi State Baseball to First National Championship

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Omaha, Nebraska, the perennial home of the College World Series, is more than 800 miles from Mississippi State’s campus in Starkville, Mississippi. But on Wednesday night, Bulldogs fans packed TD Ameritrade Park like it was a home game. They were there to witness history. 

Led by Valencia, Pennsylvania’s own Will Bednar, a Mars Area High School alumnus, Mississippi State (50-18) broke a three-year streak of coming up short in the College World Series with an emphatic and cathartic 9-0 win over Vanderbilt (49-17) in the decisive game of the best-of-three final series. Wednesday’s win clinched the first national title for any Bulldogs athletic program ever.  

Bednar capped a string of dominant starts in Omaha by blanking the Commodores over seven brilliant, no-hit innings. After walking three runners in the first two innings, he settled in. Bednar retired 12 in a row after walking designated hitter Spencer Jones in the bottom of the second. 

 

He exited the game to a standing ovation from the Bulldogs’ faithful and became a vocal supporter of his team from the dugout. The Mississippi State ace ended his run in Omaha having thrown 19 ⅓ innings, allowed just three earned runs and struck out 25.   

Bednar’s counterpart and fellow high-caliber draft prospect, Vanderbilt lefty Kumar Rocker was shaky in the decisive game three. He was tagged for six hits, a pair of walks and five runs over just 4 ⅓ innings of work.

Rocker allowed a single to center fielder Rowdey Jordan to lead off the game. Then, with one out, third baseman Kamren James reached on a fielder’s choice and a bad throw from Rocker — the Commodores’ 11th error of the College World Series — allowed Jordan to advance to third. 

Jordan scored on a sacrifice fly from Luke Hancock to make it 1-0, Mississippi State. The Bulldogs plated two more in the second, capitalizing on a pair of walks from Rocker. Dubrule and Skinner reached on consecutive free passes then a ground out from the designated hitter Kellum Clark moved them along to second and third. 

Another groundout from Forsythe brought in the run of the game as Dubrule scored from third, then Jordan doubled home the third run immediately after. Rocker was chased in the fifth inning after back-to-back RBI singles from Hancock and Tanner made it 5-0 in favor of the Bulldogs. 

Mississippi State was relentless offensively, scoring in bunches off of Rocker’s replacement as well. The Bulldogs added four more runs of insurance all by way of the home run. In the seventh inning, Tanner pulled a solo shot to the right field bleachers and Clark blasted a three-run shot to virtually put the national title away. 

Right-hander Landon Sims relieved Bednar and allowed just a hit and a walk through three scoreless innings on the hill. He pitched the ninth.

Another Pittsburgh native and former Pine-Richland standout, Troy LaNeve, entered the game as a pinch hitter and struck out looking against Sims in the bottom of the eighth. 

LaNeve will return to Vanderbilt for his junior season next year, and Bednar, who has two years of eligibility remaining, but just wrapped up his third collegiate season, is expected to go in the first round of July’s MLB Draft. 

Mississippi State’s 11 appearances in the College World Series without winning a title was the third-most in the country. But the Bulldogs ended the 2021 season by winning their 50th game to secure their first national title.

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker

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