Landon Sims has two four-inning appearances this season.
His first came Feb. 20 during Mississippi State's 8-3 win against Texas, then the No. 9 team in the nation. Sims inherited a bases-loaded jam before striking out the side, the first of 10 strikeouts across four no-hit innings. The Bulldogs won their season opener, and five days later, Sims was named the SEC Co-Pitcher of the Week.
His latest came Monday night in Game 3 of Mississippi State's Super Regional series against Notre Dame. Sims pitched the final four innings to slam the door on the Fighting Irish and send the Bulldogs to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., with an 11-7 win.
"I was pretty comfortable," Sims said after the game. "I was telling people all day once I got the ball in the bullpen, and the word that I was going in the next inning, all my nerves were going to flush away. I was nervous there for a while, you know. The past two days, hasn't been much sleep [and] hasn't been much eating. A little bit of an anxiety king over here. But once I got the ball, it was a lot of fun."
Sims, who owns a 4-0 record and 1.55 ERA with 10 saves, has been nothing short of dominant as a redshirt freshman. He struck out 10 batters in each of his first two outings and now has 85 strikeouts in 46 1/3 innings.
Sims, a South Forsyth alum, helped preserve a one-run lead last week in a 6-5 win against Campbell, sending the Bulldogs to their fifth straight Super Regional. And on Saturday, Sims added two no-hit innings to notch his 10th save of the season as Mississippi took Game 1 against Notre Dame, 9-8.
But those were Sims' only two appearances since May 27, and after the Irish evened the series Sunday with a 9-1 win, Sims was ready for more.
"I get a text message as I'm watching some of the games last night, 'Coach, you can use me any way you'd like me.' I'm sitting on my couch and I knew that meant we can extend him," Mississippi State head coach Chris Lemonis said. "Early in the year, he was throwing 60-70 pitches an appearance. We felt like getting started with [Houston Harding] going through the lineup once or twice. Our goal was to get five; we got four. We just felt like Landon would be a good matchup. Obviously, he's a good matchup against anybody."
To get past the Irish and reach Omaha, Sims had to work around a home run for the first time all season. After a leadoff walk and a quick out to start the seventh, Notre Dame senior Niko Kavadas tagged a fastball and sent a no-doubter over the fence to cut the Bulldogs' lead to 11-7.
However, the next time Sims faced Kavadas, with two on and one out, Sims forced Kavadas to bounce into a game-ending double play.
"Me and Logan [Tanner] were just talking about it, but I was not going to throw him another fastball," Sims said. "I had a really good feel for my slider right there in the last two innings, so I knew if I located it well, I had a chance for him to roll over it. Any out right there was big, but that double play right there way huge, and it sent us on our way to Omaha."
Back to Back to Back!#HailState🐶 | #OmaDawgs pic.twitter.com/il4q46ZZlK— Mississippi State Athletics (@HailState) June 15, 2021
Sims is among 25 semifinalists for the Golden Spikes Award. He's also one of 10 finalists for the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year.
Sims has at least one strikeout in each of his 21 appearances this season, including a outing last month where he pitched only 1/3 innings. Against SEC opponents, Sims owns a microscopic 0.36 ERA and 43 strikeouts in 25 1/3 innings.
In terms of pressure, though, none compare to Monday night's victory, when the eyes of college baseball were on Sims and the Bulldogs, the final team to earn a College World Series berth.
"The moment, yeah it's big, but it's the same game I've been playing since I was 3 years old. That's never going to change," Sims said. "You know, the rubber is still 60 feet, 6 inches away from home plate and I've still got to throw it over the plate to get outs. I try not to get too big for either moment, whether it's too big or too small. It's just a game. The stakes were a little bit higher, but just keeping my cool out there and trying to throw it over the plate was the main goal."
Mississippi State will face a familiar opponent in Texas when the Bulldogs open their College World Series slate 6 p.m. Sunday at TD Ameritrade Park.
It's a moment Sims envisioned as a senior at South Forsyth.
"Two years ago, when they were hosting Stanford here and made it to Omaha, my parents were like, 'Hey, do you want to take a trip to Omaha?' I was like, 'Let's save the money, because I have a really good feeling we might take a trip or two to Omaha while I'm here," Sims said.
THE GRIND: South Forsyth Multi sport Athlete Landon Sims