Mississippi State brings its late-inning magic to Omaha

Mississippi State walks off in the 9th (1:03)

Luke Alexander hits one over the outfielder's head and Hunter Stovall hustles home to lift Mississippi State to a 1-0 walk-off win against Washington. (1:03)

OMAHA, Neb. -- If Mississippi State finds itself in a pressure situation Tuesday in the ninth inning against North Carolina, don't expect the Bulldogs to panic.

You won't find interim coach Gary Henderson flinching, even if things don't go their way initially. The players, even in the tensest moments, expect to be relaxed.

After needing late-game heroics to survive the Tallahassee Regional, the Nashville Super Regional and, most recently, their opening game of the College World Series, is Henderson even the least bit concerned that his "OmaDawgs" -- the catchy moniker the team has branded itself with on social media to commemorate its trip to the CWS -- might be tempting fate by continuing to win in such dramatic fashion?

"No, there's no concern about it," Henderson said after Mississippi State's walk-off 1-0 victory over Washington on Saturday night. "None."

After Luke Alexander's ninth-inning, game-winning RBI single to set up the Bulldogs' matchup against the Tar Heels (44-18) on Tuesday (11 a.m.. ET, ESPN2 and the ESPN App), it's understandable why they're confident they can ride this wave of late-game magic all the way to their first College World Series championship.

Mississippi State (38-27) has more walk-off victories this season (seven) than any other team in the CWS field. The Bulldogs' postseason run has been littered with wild finishes. In the Tallahassee Regional, they were one strike away from elimination when Elijah MacNamee hit a walk-off, three-run homer to give Mississippi State a 3-2 win over Florida State and save its season.

In Game 1 of the Nashville Super Regional, MacNamee hit another walk-off homer to give the Dawgs a 10-8 victory over Vanderbilt, and in Game 3, they survived an impressive fight from the Commodores, who came back from a three-run, ninth-inning deficit to force extras before Mississippi State eventually won 10-6 in 11 innings to reserve its spot in Omaha.

Why are the Bulldogs so good in these spots?

"When situations like that come up, we as a whole team have full confidence in whoever is at the plate that it's going to happen just because Coach Henderson has made us be Dawgs, be grinders," infielder Hunter Stovall said. "So we get in the box and we have absolutely full confidence that we're going to get this done."

Said Alexander: "You don't want to be in that situation. You want to have a six-run lead going into the ninth. But for us to do what we've done this year, it gives us a lot of comfort."

Their frenzied finish against Washington is particularly beneficial because the Dawgs are in the coveted winners bracket. In the past 37 years, 34 CWS champions have won their first game.

Tuesday's game is equally important, however, when it comes to increasing their chances at a title, since 24 of the past 28 champions have started 2-0 in Omaha.

"Getting in that winners bracket is huge," Alexander said. "When we played in the regional, we lost the first one and it's tough. We had to win four games. It's tough on the pitchers, it's tough on the hitters."

Mississippi State will face a North Carolina team that's equally potent offensively. The Tar Heels led the ACC in runs per game during conference play (7.26) and scored six runs off two-time Pac-12 pitcher of the year Luke Heimlich on Saturday in their opening win over Oregon State. The Bulldogs scored 66 runs in eight postseason games before arriving in Omaha.

How long can Mississippi State keep up its magic?

"Maybe until the end of the World Series and we're holding that trophy," Alexander said.