Encore from Elijah: MacNamee lifts Bulldogs with another clutch homer

Elijah MacNamee approaches home plate after another walk off home run.
Staff Writer

Just call it the Elijah encore.

For the second time in less than a week, Mississippi State right fielder Elijah MacNamee delivered a postseason walk-off home run on Friday night. His latest shot was a two-run blast that carried MSU to a 10-8 win over Vanderbilt in the opener of the two schools’ best-of-three super regional series. It also puts the Bulldogs just one win away from a berth in the College World Series.

While, for some, MacNamee’s long-ball surely brought back memories of last Saturday’s similar game-winning shot that kept MSU’s season alive, the junior slugger insisted on Friday that wasn’t even on his mind when he stepped to the plate with a runner at first and one out in the ninth.

“I just told myself to go up there, have a good at-bat and pass it on,” MacNamee said.

MacNamee of course accomplished much more than that. His high fly ball cleared the wall in left field and set off a Bulldog celebration. MSU has now won five games in a row since losing the opener of the Tallahassee Regional last weekend.

“(MSU) is playing with great emotion right now,” Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin said. “I think that’s pretty easy to see. MacNamee certainly is.”

MacNamee’s game-winner wasn’t even his first home run of the night. He also went deep in the third inning. He finished the game 3-for-5 with his two homers, five RBI and a pair of runs scored. Now, all eight of MacNamee’s homers this season have come in his last 15 games, so it was no surprise MSU interim head coach Gary Henderson was proud to see MacNamee get a chance in the ninth.

“I was pretty glad he was up,” Henderson admitted.

Henderson also said he was happy to see Hunter Stovall on base ahead of MacNamee in the decisive ninth. Stovall had reached on a one-out single.

“That changes the dynamics of things,” Henderson said of having Stovall aboard.

MacNamee followed, got in a quick 0-2 count, fouled off a pitch, then hit his deep drive into the Nashville night.

“When I got to two strikes, it’s just the two-strike approach we’ve been doing,” MacNamee said. “I was thinking go the other way with the fastball. I guess thinking go the other way with the fastball, I was able to get off speed, stay in there and it was a pitch I could handle.”

MacNamee’s shot put an end to a wild night that originally looked like the Bulldogs would cruise to victory. MacNamee’s first homer gave MSU a 7-2 lead at the time.

State built its advantage with a pair of second-inning runs, then after Vanderbilt answered back in the top of the third with two of its own, MacNamee’s homer capped a five-run frame in the bottom of the third for the Bulldogs.

Vanderbilt fought back though. In the top of the fifth, the Commodores used three hits, four walks and a Bulldog error to pull even at 7-7.

MSU went back in front in the eighth. With two outs in the frame, Jake Mangum delivered an RBI single. That looked like it’d be the winning run before Vanderbilt tied the game with two outs in the top of the ninth on a Pat DeMarco triple that eventually allowed him to score when the throw to third got away. It was a disheartening turn of events for the Bulldogs.

No matter though. MacNamee was there to save the day for MSU yet again, and while his game-clinching blast set off a small party amongst the Bulldogs near home plate, there was at least some reservation.

That's because State knows this series isn’t over yet.

“The dominant thought is we have to win another game,” Henderson said.

Game two of the set is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday night.