Ross Mitchell, a former Blackman High School standount, pitches during a Feb. 23, 2013, game against Samford University in Starksville, Miss. Mitchell is a pitcher with the Mississippi State University baseball team. (Photo courtesy of B. Simmonds)
Ross Mitchell's boyhood dream came true when he marched out to the mound at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb., and pitched in the College World Series.
“It was a dream come true to go to Omaha,” said Mitchell, who pitched in relief for the Mississippi State University Bulldogs' first game in the storied tournament. The left-handed pitcher came to the Bulldogs' bullpen by way of Blackman High School.
But Mississippi State almost didn't make it to Omaha.
“It was pretty nerve racking; we tried to give it away,” Mitchell said about the Bulldogs beating the University of Virginia Cavaliers in the NCAA Super Regional on June 10 to advance to the College World Series.
The Bulldogs swept the Cavaliers in two games, but they had to play through two rain stoppages and a tornado watch on two afternoons to advance to their first College World Series since 2007.
The Bulldogs (50-18) opened up play in the series with a come-from-behind 5-4 victory Saturday over Oregon State.
Mitchell, a native of Smyrna, was one of the big reasons for the program’s first CWS win since 1998.
He replaced starter Kendall Graveman in the fifth inning and held the Beaver bats until closer Jonathan Holder shut them down down for the win. The Bulldog offense took the lead late in the game, and Mitchell improved his mark to a perfect 13-0 mark this season while Holder added his 19th save of the season.
Mississippi State came from behind again Monday night with a three-run eighth inning to knock the Indiana University Hoosiers into the losers bracket.
Coming into this year’s world series, Mitchell has been one of the top pitchers in the SEC, which along with his impressive 1.35 ERA helped Mississppi State finish third in the West. He also relished the chance to pitch in the double elimination College World Series.
“It’s just a special moment,” Mitchell said. “I never pictured myself pitching there. It will be something I will tell my kids someday.”
Mitchell comes from a baseball family.
Both his father, Charlie, and uncle John spent time playing pro ball during the 1980s. Charlie Mitchell was a pitcher with the Boston Red Sox from 1984-85 and ended his career with the Nashville Sounds, while John Mitchell pitched for the New York Mets (1986-89) and the Baltimore Orioles (1990).
“They just taught me to play the game with respect and fundamentals and knowing how to play the game the right way,” Mitchell said.
While at Blackman from 2009-10, he became one of the school’s top pitchers. This is the same high school that produced last year’s American League CY Young winner David Price.
In 2009, Mitchell had a 9-1 record for the Blaze, which broke Price’s single season wins mark at Blackman. He also had a 2.48 ERA with 87 strikeouts.
He entered Mississppi State in 2011, but he was redshirted his freshman year. In 2012, Mitchell appeared in 24 games, including 23 in relief. He finished with a 3-0 record with a 1.18 ERA, including a win against Vanderbilt in the SEC Tournament.
Now, Mitchell said he hopes to take the success from his early baseball career and help the Bulldogs to their first national championship in baseball.
“We got to believe we can win it, and play with that mindset,” Mitchell said.
The Bulldogs need one win to reach next week's best-of-three finals. They're off until Friday when they'll see a rematch with either Indiana (49-15) or Oregon State, who will face off in an elimination game Wednesday.