/Starkville crowd was a winner for Bulldogs

Starkville crowd was a winner for Bulldogs

We shouldn’t. On Friday afternoon, the Southeast Missouri State (SEMO), Redhawks served as a reminder. Mississippi State won 9-5 in a NCAA Tournament game that was filled with as much drama and sweat as Mississippi State. The Bulldogs won over the Ohio Valley Conference champion team and Joey Lucchesi, who was backed by a 9,378-strong crowd. We’ll get to Lucchesi a bit later. But first, a word from Steve Bieser (SEMO coach), a former Major Leaguer for the Philadelphia Phillies as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bieser stated, “This was an amazing baseball atmosphere.” It was a unique opportunity for our children to play in such a venue before such a large crowd. It’s hostile. It’s hostile. “There’s no disrespect meant.” Lucchesi was a tall, lanky left-hander that led the nation in strikeouts. He got an early dose from the crowd. State fans were shocked by his unconventional, jerky wind-up. State fans chanted “One” when Lucchesi began his wind-up by raising his hands above his head. When he raised his hands to his chest, they roared “Two!” Then, as he moved his hands over to his belt, they counted his hands and shouted, unison, “Four!” It was indeed funny. “I didn’t expect that,” Lucchesi would respond. Who would have thought? “It was a little strange and annoying at the beginning,” Lucchesi said. “I just shook them off.” Lucchesi also shook off a linedrive off his shin, and a three-run homer that should have been caught by the centerfielder. He fought and won the admiration Mississippi State coach John Cohen, who said about Lucchesi: “He’s a fighter. He’s phenomenal. He pitched on very little rest, but he did a great job.” Keep in mind that Lucchesi pitches most often in front of crowds less than 1,000. Lucchesi defeated State’s ace righthander Dakota Hudson who was left with the score tied at four in the fourth inning. Lucchesi fought into the sixth, but Bieser came and took him. The score was 7-5. Brent Rooker was the star of a 14-hit State team, with two home runs, four RBI and three walks. Three of those were on a drive to centerfield from Dan Holst and into the cheering crowd. Bieser says Holst is one of the greatest centerfielders he’s ever coached, but he missed a ball that he usually catches. Did the crowd –Dudy’s outfield crowds, which are famous for their harshness of the opposition — have anything at all to do with it? It did it affect his concentration? It’s impossible to say for sure, but Cohen isn’t going to take Dudy Noble fans for granted. Cohen requested that State’s game move from nighttime to the heat during the day, when most fans are at work. Cohen feels that playing Friday night earlier gave the Bulldogs the best chance of winning this tournament with four teams and advancing to a Super Regional next weekend. Cohen expressed gratitude to his fans for their support. They almost always do. These crowds and the game atmosphere are largely due to the outfield signs that welcome visiting players upon their arrival at Dudy Noble. From left to right, the signs read: “47 All Americans,” 35 NCAA Tournaments,” Nine College World Series,” 11 SEC Championships,” Seven SEC Tournament Championships and 12 first round picks. Friday’s crowd could have made all the difference.