By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
For the short-sighted or those with long-term memory problems, now is the time to panic if you’re into Mississippi State baseball. The rest of us will put the Bulldogs’ poor SEC start into its proper context.
MSU, 23-8 overall, is 3-6 in league play. It’s dropped two of three in each of the first three SEC weekends, to LSU, Kentucky and Arkansas. The latter two series were on the road.
Some numbers to consider:
• Those six losses have come by a total of 11 runs, with three one-run losses and a pair of two-run losses, including an extra-innings setback to LSU.
• The combined SEC record of MSU’s first three opponents is 20-7. Compare that to LSU, which at 8-1 leads the Western Division. The Tigers’ foes – MSU, Auburn and Missouri – have a combined 6-21 mark
• The current Baseball America rankings of State’s first three opponents: LSU No. 3, Kentucky No. 7, Arkansas No. 14.
This all makes for a pretty fair argument that MSU isn’t that far off from getting things right. But I can understand the counterargument that what separates good from great in the SEC is winning the close games and beating the elite teams.
News flash: The SEC is a brutal conference. And for MSU, it won’t get any easier. Florida (13-16, 4-5) comes in this weekend, and while the Gators have struggled, they did just take two of three from Ole Miss.
Then it’s a trip to Texas A&M the next weekend. The other road trips this season are at No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 17 Ole Miss.
There are three SEC teams MSU doesn’t play this season: Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee. Those are the bottom three teams in the Eastern Division, and they’ll all probably stay there.
So yeah, it won’t be easy for MSU to climb out of this hole, but it is very do-able. Just remember last season, when the Bulldogs started 3-6 but finished 16-14, won the SEC Tournament, and made an NCAA Regional.
There are still 21 league games to be played. Plenty of time for MSU to figure this out.
Of course, if the starting pitching doesn’t improve, and if clutch hits don’t start coming, then it could be a struggle the rest of the way. But again, the level of competition has something to do with that, too.
You can’t define a baseball team or its season based on a handful of games, and there’s too much talent and too much good coaching on this team for things not to improve.
In other words: Don’t panic.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at DJournal.com.