TUPELO – One of my favorite movies is “Dark Knight,” and during a key scene in that film, Gotham District Attorney Harvey Dent says of the Joker’s one-man crime wave, “The night is darkest just before the dawn.”
For Mississippi State baseball, it’s awfully dark right now. I don’t care how sunny a picture John Cohen has been painting of the future.
The Bulldogs have reached new lows this season, lows not seen since 1975, the year before Ron Polk took over and resurrected MSU baseball.
Allow me to detail this current futility:
– MSU lost 11 consecutive games before beating Northwestern (La.) State last Wednesday. The previous school record was nine losses in a row, set in 1975.
– MSU has been swept on four consecutive SEC weekends for the first time ever. In ’75, it was swept three straight times.
– The Bulldogs’ current league losing streak stands at 12 games following Vanderbilt’s sweep. That’s one shy of the school record for consecutive SEC losses, set in … yeah, 1975.
– State has now lost 22 SEC games, most ever (it lost 21 in 2008, Polk’s final year).
– Against Western Division foes, MSU is 0-12, with defending national champion LSU remaining.
– MSU will miss the SEC Tournament for the third year in a row, the first time that’s happened.
I don’t mean to pile on here, but this is the way things are. I’ll explore this more in depth next week, but in his second year as head coach, Cohen is not where he was at Kentucky at this point.
Judging by numbers alone, in fact, MSU has seemingly regressed. Last season, the Bulldogs were 25-29, 9-20 in SEC play. This season, those marks are 21-31 and 5-22.
To be fair, the 2009 signing class was truly Cohen’s first one, and he went heavy on the pitching. More than half of the innings pitched this year have been by freshmen, and that’s just asking for a train wreck, no matter how good these kids will eventually be.
Those freshmen have clearly hit a wall, although Tupelo’s Chris Stratton has been good more often than not and was solid against Vandy.
In seven of its last eight SEC losses, MSU has yielded double-digit run totals, including in each of the last five games. During this 12-game league losing skid, State’s team ERA is 10.32 (it’s 6.67 for the entire season).
MSU mercifully closes out the season with a game at Southern Miss tonight (6:30 start) and then a trip to LSU.
The other part of that Harvey Dent line is this: “And I promise you, the dawn is coming.”
Cohen is promising the same thing. I give him the benefit of the doubt given his past success – winning an SEC baseball title at Kentucky is like winning a football title at Vanderbilt – and I won’t be the least bit surprised to see MSU rise up again.
But these are dark times for a proud program.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal