By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
OMAHA, Neb. – Mississippi State still needs three more wins to claim its first College World Series championship, but this team is already making history.
That’s saying something considering the deep tradition of MSU baseball. This is the program’s ninth trip to the CWS, the first one coming in 1971 under coach Paul Gregory.
Ron Polk brought the Bulldogs to Omaha six times – most recently in 2007 – and Pat McMahon did it once. Now John Cohen has joined that exclusive club, and the way things are shaping up, more history could be in the offing.
For only the second time, MSU has started a CWS 2-0. Monday’s win over Indiana was State’s 50th of the season, marking the fourth time MSU has reached the 50-win mark.
Cohen was a member of the last team to do so, in 1990. He was also part of the 1989 club that won a program-record 54 games.
So he understands fully what this current run means in the larger picture of MSU baseball history.
“I’ve been part of three of the four 50-win seasons at Mississippi State, and that’s called being with the right people at the right time,” Cohen said. “In ‘90 we had such a great group of older players.
“The year before that we were ranked No. 1 for a large portion of the year, and certainly we all idolized that ‘85 team that won 50 games.
“You had some hall-of-fame caliber players on those teams.”
The 1985 team, which featured Jeff Brantley, Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro, tied for third in the CWS, MSU’s best finish here. If the Bulldogs can win Friday, they’ll advance to the best-of-three championship series, automatically making this the most successful team in program history.
The current players are aware of the history. Pitcher Ben Bracewell, who’s from Chelsea, Ala., had an idea of what MSU had accomplished, but once the Bulldogs started recruiting him, he became more educated.
“As soon as I got the first little information letter in the mail, I was like, dang, they’ve done some pretty cool things in the past,” Bracewell said.
This MSU squad has revived that past, but certainly in its own way. It’s a team brimming with personality and confidence, a team that since last fall has fully expected to be here.
It was then, you might recall, that first baseman Wes Rea told fans on Twitter to “book your rooms” for Omaha. His confidence has not waned a bit.
“The guys talked about last time this team went 2-0 in the College World Series with guys like Palmeiro and Brantley and all those guys,” Rea said. “It’s good to be in that company.
“We’re going to try to finish this thing and maybe make a statement a little bit larger than they made back in their day.”
Brad Locke (brad.locke@ journalinc.com) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.