By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
I don’t strongly believe in the theory of a baseball team garnering “momentum” and riding it to great heights. That’s just a word guys like myself use when we get a little lazy in our writing.
So I’m not going to tell you that Mississippi State’s baseball team has momentum. I could say it’s on a hot streak, having won three consecutive SEC series, with a 7-2 mark over that span.
One definition of momentum is “the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or course of events.” So in that sense, you can reasonably state that MSU has momentum on its side, and that momentum in this context is simply a growing confidence bred by continued success.
But covering sports as long as I have (15 years), I’ve seen numerous teams who supposedly had “momentum” suddenly fall apart. Momentum in its truest form is not easily arrested, and so for a team to swiftly lose it goes against logic.
Momentum isn’t really the right word to describe what the Bulldogs have going on. They’re 29-18 overall, 12-12 in SEC play – tied for second in the SEC Western Division – and are ranked 25th in the country by Baseball America.
That’s not due to gaining momentum, or to any other mysterious force you might try to ascribe to this team’s recent play. It’s due to pitching, defense and – if you insist on an intangible – a stubborn will in late innings.
Only one real flaw
Sorry if that’s not sexy enough for you, but it’s that simple: MSU is a team that does most everything well except hit, but averaging 4.46 runs per game in SEC play is going to be good enough most days when you have one of the league’s top pitching staffs.
If you insist on clinging to the notion of momentum, then these final two weekends of the season will truly test just how strong a force it is for MSU. It starts a series at No. 6 Florida on Friday, then next Thursday begins a home series against No. 3 Kentucky.
At the moment, MSU is in fine shape as far as berths in the SEC Tournament and an NCAA regional. The next two weekends could reshape that future to some degree, especially if the Bulldogs go 0-6, but they seem pretty safe in making both fields.
You have to consider the level of competition, and really all State needs to do is win a couple. Win three, and it’ll finish at .500 in SEC play, which is pretty good for a team that’s had to battle through a ton of injuries and youth.
This time of year, as the competition grows tougher, it’s hard to grab hold of momentum. It’s more about surviving. An ability to do that will serve MSU well the next few weeks.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at djournal.com.