HOOVER, Ala. Mississippi State coach Ron Polk looks back at

HOOVER, Ala. Mississippi State coach Ron Polk looks back at his club’s performance in the late innings and wonders, what would 15 more runs have meant this season?

“We’ve got six SEC losses by two runs or one run,” said Polk, whose club finished 17-13 in SEC regular season play. “All of those losses came in the late innings, games we had a chance to win.”

The five losses counted by Polk include Ole Miss 3-2, Alabama 5-4, South Carolina 6-5, Vanderbilt 6-4, Alabama 3-1 and Auburn 3-1. With 15 strategically placed runs, MSU would’ve run the table on that group.

“If we had taken care of our business in those games, we wouldn’t have to answer questions about a play-in game with Vanderbilt,” he said.

While a sweep would’ve been unlikely, it would’ve left MSU at 23-7 and provided an SEC Championship. Splitting those games would’ve been more likely and that would’ve left MSU at 20-10 still good enough for the SEC Championship.

“That’s how close we came this year,” Polk said.

Johnson a cover boy: Wednesday’s front page of the Birmingham Post-Herald is a color picture of MSU’s Eric DuBose and Van Johnson, a Saltillo native. Both pitchers are working on pickoff moves to first base during a practice session.

Johnson benefitted by the Alabama media interest in DuBose, an Alabama native from Gilbertown, 15 miles east of Meridian.

“Playing back in Alabama at the Met (Hoover Metropolitan Stadium) on opening night has gotten me a lot of attention,” Bailey said.

Format unanimously criticized: None of the eight head coaches had a positive thing to say about the tournament’s format four teams playing a single-elimination game Wednesday, allowing for a six-team, double-elimination tournament that begins today.

“The idea was to get more teams participating, but having four teams play a put-out game is ridiculous,” said Kentucky coach Keith Madison, whose club defeated Arkansas in the opener. “The winner of the second game and us will have used up our aces while the other four have their aces ready to go.”

LSU coach Skip Bertman said, “They should do it like the College World Series and have an eight-team, double-elimination format. And I’m saying that even though we don’t have to worry about a put-out game.”

As far as the tournament’s quality, the eight teams are using this week’s tournament as a pre-regional to the regional.

“This tournament is going to be tougher than a lot of the regionals in the NCAA Tournament,” Arkansas coach Norm DeBriyn said.

Big ball yard: The Met is larger than any SEC park, playing at 340 feet down the lines, 390 feet in the power alleys and 405 feet to center field. Kentucky’s Adam Shadburne had a homer in the opener, but pulled it down the right field line. LSU has an SEC-high 114 homers entering the tournament.

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