OMAHA, Neb. — When Mississippi State right-hander Preston Johnson got Virginia shortstop Nic Kent to swing and miss on an 0-2 breaking ball, the whiff made college baseball history Tuesday night.
The K recorded in the bottom of the second inning of Tuesday night’s College World Series Game 8 was the 766th strikeout recorded by Bulldogs pitchers, the most ever by a single team in a single season. For good measure, Johnson struck out the next batter too, as Cavaliers leftfielder Alex Tappen was caught looking at a 1-2 fastball.
In recent years, strikeouts have increased throughout all levels of baseball, as pitchers have begun hyper-focusing on spin rates, and hitters have all but given up on small ball in lieu of big swings. The college baseball record for strikeouts per nine innings in a season that was set in 1998 stood until 2016. Now, that record has been bested every season since, led this year by Mississippi State, which had a rate of 12.5 per nine innings as the Bulldogs entered Tuesday’s game.
In their nail-biting 1-0 win over Texas Sunday night, the Bulldogs struck out 21 Longhorns, breaking a CWS single-game record set in 1968, while Texas pitchers added 12 Ks of their own.
The only question now is what Mississippi State’s final 2021 strikeout tally will be. Depending on the outcome of the Virginia contest, the Bulldogs could play as many as six more games before the College World Series ends.