By Gene Phelps
Mississippi State’s ninth trip to Omaha and the College World Series last June generated plenty of excitement, especially in Northeast Mississippi.
Bulldogs coach John Cohen took his team – complete with extra mojo from its bare-chested “Bench Mobb” – to within two victories of bringing a national championship in baseball home to Starkville.
MSU, which ended its banner season with a 51-20 record, lost two straight games to UCLA in the best-of-three championship series at a definitely maroon-tinted TD Ameritrade Park.
Numerous Bulldogs fans changed their summer vacation plans at the last minute and made the long trek to Nebraska for the CWS, especially after MSU defeated Oregon State 4-1 to reach the championship series. They packed the outfield stands for both games.
“This is history; we absolutely wanted to be here,” Tupelo resident Chad West said.
“We’re true maroon,” said Clint Dean of Columbus, who stood in line with hundreds of other MSU fans to buy tickets. “… This could be a once-in-a-lifetime experience; I hope it’s not,” added Tripp Dean.
MSU enters the 2014 season with championship expectations from the experts and its passionate fans. The Bulldogs have been ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation in the preseason.
Last season’s school-record closer with 21 saves, junior Jonathan Holder, and starting pitcher Ross Mitchell, a 13-game winner, were recently named to the Louisville Slugger preseason All-America team.
The road, hopefully back to Omaha, begins Feb. 14 at Dudy Noble Field with a series against Hofstra.