By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
STARKVILLE – Mississippi State’s players were decked out in College World Series apparel on Wednesday, but it hadn’t fully sunk in that they were going to Omaha.
On Saturday, the No. 14-ranked Bulldogs (48-18) open CWS play at TD Ameritrade Park against No. 4 Oregon State (50-11), with a 2 p.m. scheduled first pitch.
“We kind of decided on the bus on the way home that I don’t think it’s going to sink in until we walk on that field for the first time,” pitcher Ben Bracewell said. “I guess the opening ceremonies, that’s when it’s really going to sink in, seeing all those people in the stands and all the other teams there.”
MSU is coming off a two-game sweep of Virginia in the Charlottesville Super Regional, earning the school’s ninth CWS berth. This is a trip many of the players said they dreamed of making since childhood.
But it doesn’t seem real yet. Since returning home Monday night, the Bulldogs have gotten back to their normal practice routine. They leave today for Omaha, and that’s when the reality should start seeping in.
“I think it’ll start sinking in when we get on the plane and start heading that way,” first baseman Wes Rea said.
Second baseman Brett Pirtle said, “It’s probably going to sink in to me right as we get there. Right as we do the ceremony, it’s probably going to hit me all at once.”
The opening ceremonies are Friday at 8:30 p.m.
MSU’s pitching staff will have to deal with yet another postseason format.
After four games in five days in the SEC Tournament, MSU played four in as many days in the Starkville Regional. Then it played two over a three-day span in the super regional because of inclement weather.
In Omaha, MSU will play Saturday, then Monday, and if it plays beyond Monday, time off between games will depend on whether State wins. Bracewell, who’s worked both as a starter and reliever this year, doesn’t foresee any problems.
“Our bullpen’s deep, and everybody has got a pretty good understanding of that. But we’re able to mold and shape to any situation that we need,” he said.
In NCAA tournament play, MSU has a team ERA of 2.72.
MSU remains fairly healthy going into the CWS, although Bracewell was wearing a protective boot on his right food Wednesday. He did not pitch at Virginia, but head coach John Cohen expects him to be fine.
Cohen said there are a few players with “nagging things,” but, “I don’t think any of them are going to hinder playing time for our kids this weekend.”