With three weekends of SEC baseball remaining, No. 22 MSU (33-13, 10-11 SEC) is still in good position to make a run at an NCAA regional hosting berth. Getting swept at Vanderbilt this past weekend didn’t help that cause, but as I write in today’s Journal, the Bulldogs have a chance to finish strong and take some momentum into the postseason, where big things are possible.
This weekend, Alabama (27-18, 11-9) visits Dudy Noble Field. After that, MSU makes a trip to No. 24 Ole Miss (31-14, 11-10), then closes out the regular season with a home series against No. 15 South Carolina (33-12, 13-8). No easy outs there, but certainly all very winnable series. Not being above .500 in the SEC right now is a strike against MSU, so it’s safe to say that going 6-3 over the next three weekends is the minimum to shoot for.
Southeastern Baseball put out new regional projections yesterday, and it has MSU as a No. 2 seed at South Alabama, along with Southern Miss and South Florida. MSU has defeated both South Alabama and USM this season, so if you can’t host, that wouldn’t be a bad regional to be in.
Baseball America lists State as being on the hosting bubble in its latest College Stock Report. It also likes South Alabama as a possible host.
One factor that’s going to help MSU is its RPI ranking, which is currently 11th in the country and fourth in the SEC, according to both BoydsWorld.com and WarrenNolan.com. But finishing high in the Western Division standings is also important, and a lot of movement can be made the next two weekends in that regard, because MSU – which is in fifth place – trails Ole Miss by one game and Alabama by a game-and-a-half. Arkansas is in second place at 13-7, while LSU is firmly in control at the top at 16-5. Surpassing the Razorbacks will be tough, especially since MSU lost its series to them earlier this season. Plus, Arkansas should finish strong with series against Kentucky, Tennessee and Auburn coming up.
Going back to my column, the main gist of it was that I believe once MSU reaches the postseason, then something special could happen – like a trip to the College World Series. Reaching that goal would obviously be greatly aided by being a regional host, which then at least gives you a chance to host a super regional, depending on how the national seeds fare. Back in 2007, MSU won the Florida State Regional, and then they hosted a super regional despite not being a national seed, and went on to reach Omaha.
And remember this: MSU has been known to get hot toward the end of the season. Last year, between a series sweep of Kentucky and a run to the SEC Tournament title, State won eight of nine games. The year before that, it won nine of 10 games (including eight in a row), then lost a series to LSU and quickly exited the SEC Tournament, then got hot again and won the Atlanta Regional. And then nearly knocked off Florida in the super regional.
There’s a lot of baseball left, and it could get exciting.