Mississippi State: Top 10 Baseball, Football, And Other Bulldog Sports Moments In 2021
While 2021 may not have been the best year for everyone, it has certainly been a great year for Mississippi state track and field.
The Bulldogs have been successful in almost every sport and have done things for their college that were previously unknown. Current Bulldogs stars have risen to the top of the conference and the nation, while former players have enjoyed professional success. There were some big wins, some tough losses and a lot of memories created in the process.
There were too many wonderful moments to list, so here is a ranking of the 10 best moments for sports in the state of Mississippi in 2021.
10. Men’s basketball has reached the NIT Championship.
The Bulldogs have had an eventful season under head coach Ben Howland, but they came to life in the playoffs. After receiving an invitation to the NIT tournament due to his absence from the NCAA playoffs, the team went on a rampage. They beat Saint Louis, Richmond and Louisiana Tech as the fourth seed to advance to the final against Memphis. Despite being defeated by a score of 77-64, the team showed promise and managed to bring in some game-changing rookies.
9. Head Coach Mike Leach showed his dance moves to the world.
Mississippi State Football Head Coach Mike Leach is known for his witty and unique comments, but apparently he can dance too. After her team’s massive victory over Auburn on November 13, Leach wasn’t afraid to show some personality in the locker room. Many players have recorded him showing his characteristic movements, including settling into place and raising his hands to the sky. The video toured social media and added to Leach’s legacy.
8. Men’s tennis finished the year with a top 25 ranking.
The MSU men’s tennis team is arguably one of the school’s most underrated athletic programs and finished the 2021 season ranked 15th nationally according to the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. They continually attract new talent and compete against the best in the country. Their 2021 record was 18-10 – including 5-7 in the SEC – and they reached the knockout stages of the NCAA tag team tournament.
7. The road to Omaha passed through Starkville (again).
The state baseball team got used to competing in the NCAA tournament, and the road to the College World Series in Omaha began in Starkville in 2021. Dudy Noble Field has hosted both the regional and super regional and has hosted teams such as Campbell, VCU, Samford and Notre Dame. Several days saw record turnouts and set new precedents for other NCAA teams. The Diamond Dawgs won the series 2-1 over Notre Dame to advance to the CWS ahead of a packed house unsure of what the future held for the team.
6. Baseball player Tanner Allen was named SEC Player of the Year.
Right fielder Tanner Allen received many accolades during his senior season, but few were more important than his recognition as SEC Player of the Year. Allen posted a .383 batting average with 100 hits, 66 RBIs and 72 runs scored. Perhaps his greatest quality was his ability to work the basics so well – he could easily turn doubles into triples winners with his quick feet. Allen helped lead his team through the CWS and was drafted No.118 in the 2021 MLB Draft.
5. MSU Softball used the late run to reach the NCAA tournament.
Mississippi State reached its fourth straight NCAA softball tournament after winning eight of its last 10 games, including seven against SEC opponents. The Bulldogs finished the regular season 33-23 despite the toughest eighth season in the country. MSU ended up in the Stillwater Regional with Oklahoma State No.5, Boston University and Campbell. Although MSU couldn’t beat OSU in the regional final, they showed a lot of promise for the future.
4. Football scored a 25-point victory over Auburn.
The Bulldogs looked almost defeated midway into the second quarter of their game against the Auburn Tigers. Trailing 28-3, the idea of a comeback in just over 30 minutes of play seemed almost impossible, that is, until the impossible happened. Quarterback Will Rogers completed 44 of 55 passes for 415 yards and six touchdowns, and the team scored 40 unanswered points to seal a 43-34 victory. It was the biggest comeback in program history and broke the previous record of a 21-point comeback set Sept. 4 against Louisiana Tech.
3. The Track and Field Bulldogs faced the Tokyo Olympics.
The 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics have been postponed for a year due to the pandemic, but a very special group of current and former Bulldogs have used the one-year deadline to continue to improve. Marco Arop and Brandon McBride ran the 800 meters, Marta Pan Freitas ran the 1,500 meters, Anderson Peters and Curtis Thompson competed in the javelin throw and Erica Bougard competed in the heptathlon. Arop and Freitas both reached the semi-finals of their respective events, but Bougard ultimately stole the show. She placed in the top 10 in the world and represented the United States in Tokyo.
2. Women’s volleyball has had the best season in program history.
The cheerful atmosphere surrounding the Mississippi State Volleyball team grew throughout the season and peaked when the Bulldogs reached their first NCAA tournament in program history. Under head coach Julie Darty-Dennis, State went 25-6, including 16-2 in the SEC, and grew the city of Starkville to love the sport. Although they fell to Hawaii in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the chance to play in the playoffs was a great experience for the young team.
1. The Diamond Dawgs ultimately won a national championship.
For years, various Mississippi State teams have tried to win a national championship. The Diamond Dawgs finally accomplished that in 2021. After dropping out of the first game of the CWS Finals at Vanderbilt, they dominated the last two games to win the biggest prize in all of college baseball. Pitcher Will Bednar has been named the CWS MVP and the following players have been named to the tournament’s All-Star Team: Logan Tanner, Luke Hancock, Lane Forsythe, Tanner Allen and Rowdey Jordan. Six months later, the joy surrounding the 2021 squad has not died down and fans are hopeful this year’s season will be one filled with so much success.