Bulldogs return home after great 2018 run

Mississippi State's Elijah MacNamee signs autographs for fans.

Mississippi State's Elijah MacNamee signs autographs for fans.

Staff Writer

It wasn’t long after Elijah MacNamee stepped off the Mississippi State team bus in Starkville on Sunday afternoon before he was handed a banana to sign.

MSU’s slugging right fielder quickly obliged.

The Bulldogs had just returned to Starkville following their elimination from the College World Series. MSU was given a hero’s welcome back to town on campus Sunday. It was likely a bit bittersweet for the Bulldogs since they didn’t have a national championship trophy in hand, but the team was all smiles as they stepped off the bus to the tune of cowbells clanging.

“The way our story started this season, it definitely didn’t look like it’d end like this,” MacNamee said. “What this team did this year is something the Bulldog family is going to remember forever.”

Approximately 300 State fans, cowbells and bananas in hand, began showing their appreciation for this year’s miraculous run on Sunday. The Bulldogs arrived back at Golden Triangle Regional Airport around 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon. Less than an hour later, the two buses filled with MSU players and support staff rolled back onto campus just outside the outfield wall of Dudy Noble Field.

Mississippi State second baseman Hunter Stovall didn’t seem all that surprised that State fans were waiting.

“It just shows the support and fan base that we have,” Stovall said. “When we say we have the best fans in the country, we’re not lying. The support here is unbelievable. It’s good to ride up on the bus and see all these people, even when we lost, still supporting us.”

Mississippi State student Jordan Darensbourg was among the many who came out on Sunday to see these Bulldogs one last time this year. Darensbourg said he wanted to show the guys how proud he was for their accomplishments and he also believes this might just be the start of something incredibly special.

“It was a great run for this team, and this is a young team that is about to be a very successful team for years to come,” Darensbourg said. “There is a lot to look forward to.”

It was MacNamee who was looking ahead on Saturday night just moments after MSU was defeated by Oregon State to put a lid on the year. MacNamee told reporters in Omaha that he believed Mississippi State would return to the College World Series in 2019 and win it all. He didn’t back down from that bold statement on Sunday.

“That was definitely emotion coming out (on Saturday), but I’d rather be confident like that than saying I didn’t want to be back (at the College World Series),” MacNamee said. “I’d rather say we’re going to win it.”

After what the Bulldogs pulled off this season – losing a head coach, rallying back from a dreadful start and notching three different walk-off postseason wins – one would have to be foolish to dismiss MacNamee’s prediction.

Yet Sunday was more about celebrating the recent past. The gathering supporters waiting for the Bulldogs in Starkville just served to underscore everything for MacNamee.

“I’ll remember this team for the rest of my life,” MacNamee said.