It's been a long wait for these Bulldogs. But finally, they get to play in an NCAA Regional. In talking with them Monday after the 64-team field was announced, the players were excited not only for the chance to keep playing, but to make something happen.
"We're here now, and maybe next year we'll go further," said senior Jonathan Ogden, "but I think this team we've got this year with the senior leadership and a good group of guys we have, the younger guys, we're definitely going to give it all we've got and leave everything on the field these last couple of games, and hopefully keep playing."
As you probably know by now, MSU will play Southern Miss on Friday at 2 p.m. in Atlanta. When players saw that matchup pop up on the television screen Monday, the anticipation gave way to excitement.
"First, just excited that we made the regional," senior Ryan Collins said. "Then when you see Southern Miss that first-round game, it gets you pretty pumped up. It's exciting to get to play a rival like that, both of us being in the same regional."
MSU won the regular-season meeting, 5-4, in Pearl. But that was nearly two months ago, and it was a mid-week game.
"It's going to be a whole different dynamic facing them in the regional than it was in Pearl," Collins said.
A key intangible is the respective postseason experience of each team. USM is making its ninth consecutive NCAA appearance, and it reached the College World Series in 2009. This, of course, is the first NCAA berth for State in four years. Senior Nick Vickerson was a freshman at Florida State when it reached the NCAAs in 2008, but he didn't play in the postseason.
And what did Vickerson have to say? I've got some video of him, so click here to watch it.
• Also in today's Journal is a capsule look at each team in the Atlanta Regional.
• The AJC's story on Georgia Tech hosting includes this curious line: "Mississippi State (34-23) had a disappointing season by its standards." In the greater context, that's true, but in the more recent context – three consecutive bad seasons – it's reason for encouragement.