/College World Series State’s Billingsley faces toughest task yet

College World Series State’s Billingsley faces toughest task yet

Billingsley was a walk-on from Magnolia Heights School in Senatobia five years ago. He will be facing an Oregon State lineup that includes three out of the top 37 draft picks and six of the first ten rounds’ most valuable players. Billingsley was selected by the Houston Astros in the 32nd round, making him the 972nd chosen player. The numbers are clear: Billingsley is 24 years old next month and has a 4.92 earned-run average. He has given up 76 runs in 71.1 innings. He was beaten by opponents who hit a solid.270. The Beavers will not be intimidated by these numbers. They hit.322 with 64 home runs in their 63 games. The good news for Mississippi State: Ameritrade Park is the home of the College World Series. It is a beautiful stadium that boasts well-groomed Kentucky Bluegrass turf. State has more good news: Friday’s 2 p.m. match is huge. Billingsley has a reputation for being at his best when it counts most. Gary Henderson, Mississippi State’s coach, said it best: “I don’t know why certain kids rise at the moment.” He has pitched well in big matches. He has pitched well in big games. That’s why I believe in him. The team also believes in him. Billingsley has played three games in the post-season with State’s season at stake. State’s season ends if Billingsley loses one of these three games. State has won all three of them, with the exception of his masterpiece against Southern Miss in a NCAA Regional at Hattiesburg last June. Remember? Southern Miss, already having 50 wins, was undefeated at the Regional. State lost its first game and had to move through the losers bracket. The Bulldogs faced the Golden Eagles with a thin pitching staff. Billingsley was a crucial part of the Dogs’ relief. They did more than that. They won a complete game 8-1, which saved the State staff from a 8-6 defeat. Henderson stated that it was Billingsley’s best game. Henderson stated that it would be the most important game for many pitchers. “It was an important moment for JB, and for our team.” Billingsley won the spring game against Samford at the Tallahassee Regional. It was a must-win match. Billingsley won the game and went seven innings. In the Super Regional final, he got the start against Vanderbilt. State won the game despite him allowing two runs over three innings. After a short practice at Creighton University, Billingsley stated that he gives his best every time he goes out. But games like this are where younger men might get sped-up and caught up in the moment. It’s important to treat it as a regular game, like a midweek or SEC game. That’s not difficult if you look at Oregon State’s statistics. The Beavers’ slugging rate is incredible at.495. State’s is at.409. Oregon State is located approximately 2,500 miles away from Starkville in Corvallis. However, even the Bulldogs recognized them almost a continent away. Billingsley stated, “You’ve seen them all year.” They can swing it. . . . “But coming from the SEC we face that type of lineup every day so we won’t alter anything about our approach.” The Beavers have been hot. They have now scored 25 runs in their back-to-back wins after losing their CWS opener. In an 11-6 win over North Carolina on Wednesday night, Oregon State scored 13 hits and four doubles as well as three home runs. Monday night saw them score 16 hits in a 14-5 win over Washington. Billingsley’s job will be to give the Bulldogs solid innings, then turn it over to the bullpen, which has been exceptional in the post-season. If the Bulldogs win Friday, they will advance to the CWS championship series that begins Monday night. They must lose to play Oregon State Saturday if they want to win again. Billingsley said, “I have been waiting for this moment and dreaming about that moment since I was a child.” . . . I am super excited.”