By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
Mississippi State has had some postseason baseball magic up its sleeve the past two years, and so I wonder what it has in store for this season.
Two years ago, MSU went to Atlanta and won an NCAA regional as a No. 3 seed. The Bulldogs then got within eight outs of advancing to the College World Series before ultimately losing at Florida in the super regional round.
Nick Vickerson had a walk-off home run in Game 2 of that series, a moment that has established itself in MSU baseball lore.
Then last year, MSU made an unlikely run to the SEC Tournament title, playing six games in six days. As the No. 7 seed, State beat Arkansas, LSU (twice), Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
That run clearly wore out the Bulldogs, who were eliminated in the Tallahassee Regional with a pair of losses to Samford. Still, the tournament title was another notch in coach John Cohen’s belt.
So is this year’s team capable of something special? Perhaps something greater than what was accomplished the last two seasons?
You know what I’m talking about: A trip to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Right now, MSU is 33-13 overall, 10-11 in SEC play and ranked 22nd in the country by Baseball America. Cohen’s bunch just got swept at Vanderbilt, which has to be discouraging, but is certainly no reason to panic.
Three SEC weekends remain, and MSU has ample opportunity to recapture momentum and set itself up for a big postseason run. It would not surprise me at all if that run led the Bulldogs to Omaha, which has been their expectation since the preseason.
It would help if MSU could host a regional, but it probably needs to finish above .500 in the SEC to secure that privilege. State can do that.
It’s got Alabama (11-9 SEC) at home this weekend, then visits Ole Miss (11-10), and closes out the regular season by hosting South Carolina (13-8). All three of those teams have struggled to be consistent.
Cohen told me Monday that “our entire season is still in front of us. We still have a chance to do everything that we want to do.” He added that his players “know exactly what’s at stake in the next three weekends.”
This team ought to be mature enough to put the Vanderbilt series behind it. It’s good enough to host and win a regional, has the potential to win a super regional, and could very well reach Omaha for the first time in six years.
I doubt Cohen or his players would consider that feat to be “magical,” because to them it’s the next logical step in the rebuilding of this program.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.