Body language: These Bulldogs have 'it'
In sports, I am a big believer in body language. Here’s an example from Mississippi State’s Monday night College World Series victory: Seldom-used-lately Trey Porter, a senior from Hurley, entered the game in the sixth inning after Indiana switched to a right-handed pitcher.
Here Porter was in the most pressure-packed situation of his life, on national TV, before a crowd of more than 26,000, and, man, he looked liked he belonged. He was locked-in from the first pitch. You could see it in his confident manner, in his movement, in his eyes.
He wanted to be there. In that moment.
And Porter almost hit the ball out of the ballpark. He took the Indiana rightfielder to the wall in his first at bat. As was the case in the ninth inning with Oregon State batting Saturday, I would have sworn that ball was gone. There are no cheap home runs in college baseball these days.
But Porter’s first at bat was nothing compared to what would come in the eighth inning. With runners at second and third, he laced a single to score two and provide what were the winning runs. Again, he was totally locked-in. You could just see that he cherished the opportunity.
ESPN awarded Porter Player of the Game. With all due respect to Porter and his heroics, my vote would have gone to Chad Girodo. As it has been all year, the State bullpen was the story of the game and Girodo was the story of the bullpen this night.
This Bulldog bullpen just keeps doing it. Girodo, by the way, shows the same confident body language on the mound. He wants the ball. He wants to be there. He looks like he belongs there.
And so the College World Series moves into its fourth day today and Mississippi State is the only team that has won two games. State has been in this position only once before and that was before these Bulldogs were born, and those Bulldogs then had names like Clark, Palmeiro, Brantley and Thigpen.
Remember? We old folks do. State clobbered Oklahoma State in the first round, edged Arkansas in the second and then had the showdown with Texas. Clark’s two-run bomb gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead. State, the best team in college baseball that year, had steady Gene Morgan on the mound. State’s lead eventually went to 4-0.
And then it happened. A Texas hitter lined a shot off Morgan’s ankle. He stayed in the game, but he wasn’t quite the same.
Last year, during his induction to the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, Palmeiro remembered the moment vividly.
“If that doesn’t happen, we win the World Series,” Palmeiro said, before adding that not winning the CWS was something that would always haunt him.
Instead, Texas came back and won 12-7. Miami eliminated the best team in Mississippi State history 6-5 in the next game. State finished tied for third.
You talk about body language. Those Bulldogs had it and none had it more than Clark, whose oozed swagger and confidence. Palmeiro did, too. Brantley was a Bulldog on the mound. Thigpen was just plain nasty.
These 2013 Bulldogs aren’t nearly as talented, but they do have the right body language and they surely do appear to be having fun, enjoying the moment.
The rest of this series is going to be so much fun to watch.