Mississippi State

Mississippi State celebrates winning SEC Championship

KELLY PRICE/MISSISSIPPI STATE MEDIA RELATIONS 
 Mississippi State, SEC regular-season champions, will face either Alabama or Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Wednesday.
KELLY PRICE/MISSISSIPPI STATE MEDIA RELATIONS Mississippi State, SEC regular-season champions, will face either Alabama or Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Wednesday.

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State players, coaches and fans all knew the stakes entering Saturday's regular season finale.

A win over Arkansas and an Ole Miss victory over Texas A&M, the Bulldogs would win the league outright. Moments after MSU took a 6-2 lead in the fifth inning, the crowd at Dudy Noble Field erupted after the Rebels' 3-2 victory.

The Bulldogs held their own celebration on the field a few innings later after finishing off Arkansas 9-4 to claim their 11th SEC championship.

"This is the result of a ton of work by a group of kids who really put a chip on their shoulder this year," said MSU coach John Cohen. "They just competed in everything they did. They competed in the weight room, competed in practice and competed in a really tough SEC."

MSU is the first team in SEC history to go from finishing last one season to winning the league title the next.

"Everything we did from the end of last year to now had led to this moment," said MSU center fielder Jacob Robson. "With that being said, we're not done yet. Our ultimate goal is to win the whole thing. But to go from last to first in one year is almost unheard of and we're on top of the world right now."

MSU receives a first round bye as the top seed in the SEC Tournament. The Bulldogs face the Alabama-Kentucky winner Wednesday at 4:30 p.m., which will be televised on the SEC Network.

It was the 11th straight win for the Diamond Dogs (40-14-1, 21-9 SEC), completing their third straight sweep.

"For three straight weekends we knew what was at stake," said MSU third baseman Gavin Collins, who had an RBI double on Saturday. "We just had to win and keep winning. That's what we did. This team is so resilient."

MSU collected a dozen hits, led by Robson and Jack Kruger each going 3-for-4. Kruger drove in two runs and Robson added an RBI.

Jake Mangum was 3 for 5 with three singles to close out the regular season as the SEC batting champion with a .427 average.

Ryan Rigby earned the win in relief to improve to 5-1 on the year. Rigby hurled 4 2/3 shutout innings with six strikeouts and allowed just two hits.

Starter Konnor Pilkington, a former East Central High standout, lasted just 2 1/3 innings after giving up five hits including a two-run homer to Clark Eagan in the first inning. Daniel Brown and Blake Smith finished out the game on the mound for the Bulldogs.

Arkansas finishes its season 7-23 in conference play and 26-29 overall, the first losing season in 26 years of coaching for Dave Van Horn.

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