It's getting even tougher to pick these games as we are now down to eight of the greatest games in MSU history. Today's matchup is between two legendary Bulldog postseason wins: '90 vs. FSU on the Dawgs' way to the College World Series, and '96 vs. Cincy on the Dawgs' way to the Final Four.
1990 vs. # 3 Florida State
Back then, there were no Super Regionals, but eight 6-team Regionals that fed into the College World Series. Mississippi State was ranked # 18 by Baseball America but was able to host as a 2 seed because of Dudy Noble Field. Florida State was ranked # 3, coming to Starkville as the 1 seed - champions of the Metro Conference (joined ACC in 1991).
Both MSU (BYU, Illinois) and FSU (Lafayette, Central Michigan) took care of their first two opponents relatively easily. The stage was set for a squarin' off on Saturday between the two. The game was back and forth with the 'Noles getting out to a early 4-1 lead, but the Dawgs came back and tied it 5-5 by the 5th inning. FSU scored one run in each of the 6th, 7th and 8th innings to head to the 9th up 8-5. State had a rally in them, though.
After scoring a couple of runs in the top of the 9th, Burke Masters (who was 5 for 5 on the day) stepped to the plate. Jim Ellis' most legendary call ensued as Masters launched one over the left field lounge for a grand slam. MSU went on to win the game by that same score: 11-8.
Florida State would have a second run in them as they beat Illinois later that day and then beat State 11-9 on Sunday. But they had to beat the Dawgs twice and we got the best of them in the final game, 4-3, to advance to Omaha (where State went 1-2).
1996 vs. # 7 Cincinnati
After winning the SEC Tournament by defeating # 1 Kentucky in the Championship Game, MSU earned a 5 seed in the Southeast Region. The Bulldogs defeated VCU and Princeton (who had upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1st round) to get to the Sweet 16. There, State knocked off 1 seed UConn led by Ray Allen. Next up: 2 seed Cincinnati Bearcats coached by Bob Huggins.
Like some of the other big wins during the '96 run, Mississippi State got out to an early lead with a hot start. But coming out of halftime Cincy made a run to cut the lead to three, and Dampier got his fourth foul with 11 minutes to go. That's when freshman Tyrone Washington came in to bang around with Fortson.
Washington averaged 1.8 PPG during the regular season, but he managed seven with four rebounds and kept the Bearcats from taking over while Dampier was on the bench. State eventually tore the game open behind Dontae Jones' 23 points and won 73-63; advancing to the Final Four. Here's the box score.
Unfortunately MSU was unable to advance further as Syracuse won the national semi-final 77-69...and that's why this game makes the list - it's as far as the Bulldogs have ever been in the NCAA Tournament.