The SEC Tournament is underway in Hoover, Alabama and MSU is the #5 seed playing #12 seeded Missouri tonight at approximately 8:00. The week of this baseball tournament is always exciting and filled with great baseball. The Diamond Dawgs will try to defend last year’s championship – how will that affect what happens next week
The Bulldogs finally got over the hill- for the first time since 1997, Mississippi State finished the regular season with 40 wins. To me, 40 is a special number if you are a college baseball team because it means that you are pretty darn good. It’s the equivalent of winning 10 in college football, or
Having just taken a class at Oxford Community College on Photoshop, Hugh Freeze made this picture and tweeted it out to his beloved following. He says Ole Miss has won three national championships. According to what, we still aren’t sure. One would figure when discussing national championships and putting national championship trophies on the picture
It should be enough to get anyone excited when South Carolina comes to town – they won the national championship in 2010 and 2011, and were the national runner-up in 2012. They are the cream of the crop in college baseball right now. But if that’s not enough, here are some more reasons to go
The SEC Tournament is underway in Hoover, Alabama and MSU is the #5 seed playing #12 seeded Missouri tonight at approximately 8:00. The week of this baseball tournament is always exciting and filled with great baseball. The Diamond Dawgs will try to defend last year’s championship – how will that affect what happens next week in the NCAA Tournament?
There are a few schools of thought on the conference tourney – hurry up and lose to prepare for the Regional and not get tired, try to win a championship, or just win one or two and take it easy.
Some folks think MSU is barely a host team right now…many “experts” agree on this. I do not buy it. MSU’s resume is too good. When you look at those blind resumes there’s just no doubt – Mississippi State is closer to being a national seed than not hosting.
Of course, there are many State fans that feel we will get screwed at every turn so we better not lose to Missouri or we’ll feel the NCAA’s wrath – let’s stop thinking this way. We need to demand MSU host a Regional. With an RPI of 10, there is no debate. It’s not even close, no matter what happens in Hoover.
Up first is Missouri. They were only 10-20 in the SEC this year and despite the fact that they are throwing a pitcher projected to be drafted in the first 5 rounds of the MLB draft, the Dawgs need to take care of business.
While a lot of folks don’t want to see MSU make a long run after what happened last year (figuring we were tired for the Regional), I think it would be great to win this thing.
At 10th in the RPI, we aren’t far off from the top 8. There are 8 national seeds. If we get to 7th or 8th we could certainly put ourselves in position to get one. That means hosting a Regional and if you win that, a Super Regional. We’ll have the schedule in the SEC Tourney to do so…
vs. #11 RPI South Carolina
vs. #1 RPI Vanderbilt (most likely)
vs. #11 Carolina or #1 Vandy again
vs. #6 RPI LSU (probably)
I don’t want to play six games in six days again. But what about five? If State were to win the first three games we’d get an off day on Friday. Then Saturday would be a single-elimination game. So if we lost then it would only be four games and we’d have beaten #11 (again) and #1, or we win and move on to the championship game – just one more game and a chance to rack up even more RPI points.
In 2012 we played six games in the middle of the day. This year we’d play the first three games at night – if we stay in the winner’s bracket. It helps your level of fatigue when you’re playing in 20 degree cooler temperatures.
This is a very difficult tournament to win, especially when elite teams like Vandy and LSU are in it. But we could do it, and if it did happen I think it would be very hard to deny us a national seed.
There’s plenty to play for, but also a lot more to play for after this tourney is over. Hopefully it will be a lot of fun to watch, no one will get injured, and we’ll be talking about a Starkville Regional this time next week. Hail State.
The Bulldogs finally got over the hill- for the first time since 1997, Mississippi State finished the regular season with 40 wins. To me, 40 is a special number if you are a college baseball team because it means that you are pretty darn good. It’s the equivalent of winning 10 in college football, or 100 in a Major League baseball season. And even more impressive to me is the fact that this was accomplished despite playing what is to me without question the most difficult SEC schedule this season. And not only that- MSU did it without their most talented pitcher in Brandon Woodruff. A 13 win season would have been certainly understandable. However, for the second year in a row, MSU had a winning record in SEC play. If you couple that with the quality non-conference wins that MSU had over Ole Miss, South Alabama, Austin Peay, Memphis, and Rhode Island- there is no doubt that MSU should host a regional.
This weekend, the starting pitching was a little bit better- but it was still not quite where it needs to be. We need all of our starters to get past the fifth inning at least. Kendall Graveman was the only pitcher in the rotation to do that. Fortunately, we have a very strong bullpen that was able to hold South Carolina down more often than not. Ross Mitchell just goes out there and gets outs. He defies statistics and then gets the win. A lot of that is because while he may give up contact, it’s usually not quality contact and is easily fielded by our defense, which is pretty athletic and very good. Jonathan Holder set a MSU record for saves in a season earlier in the week and has a good chance to become the MSU career leader in saves possibly this year and if not then, probably early next season. The SEC single season record is 21, and again, Holder may have a chance to break that this year depending on how deep MSU goes in the postseason. The SEC career record is 43 and again, Holder may have a chance at that at some point in his career. Daryl Norris has made the transition to the bullpen, and I think it is a really good move for him. He was throwing 92-94 against Oral Roberts, and I think he could be a secret weapon of sorts for us in the postseason even though he allowed a game winning home run against South Carolina.
It’s really hard to fault Norris for that simply because he should not have been put in that position. Now here is my- “I think John Cohen is a great coach, and I like what he is doing at MSU” preface to what I am about to say- I really do believe that he is a good coach and I am happy overall with what he is done. That said, everybody has a bad day. Even Tony LaRussa?- yep. Remember when he brought in the wrong pitcher in the World Series? Even Nick Saban?- yep. Remember when he kept trying to kick long field goals against LSU a couple of years ago even though neither of his kickers were in the area code and it cost them an undefeated season? Friday night was not a good day for John Cohen. MSU was down on Friday night, and then Brett Pirtle hits a key single to give MSU the lead. So, I’m thinking- Holder is going to finish this out. So, out trots Chad Girodo- not a bad decision, he has been effective. The first man reaches, and I’m thinking- “alright here comes Hol…..CT Bradford?” As I said on twitter- closers are like fire extinguishers. You use them when you need them and as you need them. When it’s the eighth inning, and the tying runner is on base- you get your closer. You don’t wait until the fire gets out of control. So, right on cue- CT allows a single and his replacement who came off the bench cold in Jacob Robson misplays it allowing the runners to go to third with nobody out. WHY? Then we bring in Holder- and he promptly throws a wild pitch to tie the game.
Now about CT pitching- I actually don’t mind him pitching in a match-up situation. In fact, this was the first time all year I can remember the CT shuffle not working- or at least not working at a key time. BUT this was NOT A MATCH UP situation. I do think some of our fans may not like it for whatever reason- maybe it’s a little too different, they think it’s silly, you lose the DH- or whatever. But with the scholarship situation in college baseball what it is, it’s a pretty creative idea to get basically two players for one scholarship. And like anything else- it has to be done correctly. In this case, it was NOT done correctly.
To make matters worse, we then start substituting guys en masse, and before you know it- it’s Hunter Renfroe, Adam Frazier, and our second string out there. And then we have to bring Daryl Norris out there, and disaster ensues. I wouldn’t get too down on Daryl though. I really think he has a chance to be a very good pitcher for us. And I applaud for doing this. Sometimes being a hitter doesn’t work out, and a guy will decide that they want to try pitching. As you might imagine, it’s a big transition and it takes time to learn and get into pitching shape. The fact that he is throwing in the low 90′s is very promising going forward.
Today Hunter Renfroe won the Ferris Trophy which is awarded to the top collegiate player in Mississippi. And he had some pretty stiff competition this year from Bobby Wahl and Stuart Turner of Ole Miss, and Andrew Pierce of USM, and to be honest, I think Holder and Adam Frazier should have been finalists as well. It is well documented that he is slumping right now. I really think he is pressing because it is pennant time for us, and also he knows that scouts are watching him and he is going to be a first round pick. Every at bat could make or cost him money. What he needs to do, is relax and stop trying to hit everything 600 feet. Sometimes power hitters forget that it’s OK to drive in two runs with a single. I would not be surprised if Hunter and Cohen had a talk about that on the way to Jackson for the trophy presentation. Just like anything else in life, when you press at something, you typically aren’t as effective at it.
I do like how this team is performing as a whole. We are starting to get some come from behind wins like Friday, and then to come back on Saturday and beat South Carolina like we did after a tough loss is the sign of a good team. One thing I have always liked about Cohen is the competitiveness that his teams display, and you have to have that to win a championship. If you look at the greats is Major League history, pretty much all of them are extremely competitive people to the nth degree. You can’t be out there worrying about not offending the other team or how classy you look, or what your stats say. You want guys that want to win more than anything else in the world. I haven’t seen it mentioned very much, but the team we just beat and in all honesty should have swept has won two out of the last three National Titles and has been in the Championship round of the CWS three years in a row- and we just basically outplayed them.
Next up for MSU is the SEC Tournament and Missouri. To me, the SEC Tournament is probably the most grueling tournament in the country because it is so crammed together. Is it better to lose and go home and rest or play five games and win it? With four days of rest, I think most teams are going to be able to recover from the SEC Tournament. Also, when we went to Omaha in 2007, we went 0-2 in the SEC Tournament. I don’t think we lost our regional last year because we won the SEC Tournament and were tired. I just think Chris Stratton had a horrible outing and it put us behind the eight ball, and then we made some mistakes against Samford and we paid for it. I honestly don’t think we have the starting pitching depth to win the SEC Tournament because if you can get complete games out of your starters, it helps immensely. Not to mention the fact that now most teams have to win five game to win the SEC Tournament. The key is to stay in the winner’s bracket as long as possible because if you do- then you have a shot.
How will the SEC Tournament affect our hosting potential? It’s hard to say- to me the issue is we are more than likely going to have to play South Carolina again. If they defeat us, we may switch spots in the RPI pecking order- but even then I would still feel good about our chances of hosting. If we were to win the SEC Tournament, could we get a National Seed? I still think that’s probably a long shot, and a lot of that would be out of our control because I think certain teams would have to do poorly in the ACC Tournament and we would also have to possibly play certain teams like Vanderbilt and LSU to even have a remote chance. But- one game at a time.
I have been to the SEC Tournament before, and I highly encourage everyone to go and support MSU. Traditionally, we have traveled well to Hoover, and I have no doubt that this year will not be an exception. As a footnote- I have not 100% decided how I am going to cover the SEC Tournament. I may do game by game or just lump it all together.
He says Ole Miss has won three national championships. According to what, we still aren’t sure.
One would figure when discussing national championships and putting national championship trophies on the picture you would use your actual national championship trophies. Since those are BCS trophies that have only been in circulation since 1998, I’m going to have to say they were poorly photo-shopped in by one Hugh Freeze (see his signature at the bottom – all artists need to sign their work).
Not sure why ole Hugh would use trophies that aren’t his to talk about his school’s national championships. Is it because they aren’t really national championships?
Yes, that is why.
More propaganda from Oxford.
Next week, Freeze tells 10 recruits the black bear is a genie who will grant them 3 wishes upon their arrival on campus.
— Hugh Freeze (@CoachHughFreeze) May 20, 2013
It should be enough to get anyone excited when South Carolina comes to town – they won the national championship in 2010 and 2011, and were the national runner-up in 2012. They are the cream of the crop in college baseball right now. But if that’s not enough, here are some more reasons to go out to the Dude this weekend/end of week…
Hosting a Regional – MSU is in the thick of the Regional hosting discussion. Starkville hasn’t held that duty since 2003 (’07 was a Super Regional we got with a little luck). Right now the common belief is State is on the cusp of being a host if the season ended today. State’s RPI is 10th and South Carolina’s is 11th – some are saying this is a winner take a Regional series. It probably all depends on how the committee views Arkansas – both MSU and USC could both host anyway, or this series could be the determining factor. Bottom line is we don’t know anything except winning this series is crucial.
SEC Tourney Seed - The Diamond Dawgs are tied for 5th with Ole Miss as far as seeding goes in Hoover, but they’d get the tiebreaker by virtue of last weekend’s series…so we’d be 6th at 14-13. South Carolina (16-10) holds the 4th seed, which is the final seed to get a bye on Tuesday, a single elimination round. A sweep vs. USC would give MSU that 4th seed as OM plays at LSU so they aren’t going to sweep the Tigers. Sweeping USC seems like a long shot, but hey, Florida did it this year and they are a shell of who they have been the last few years.
Break the attendance record – We are just a few decent crowds away from breaking the all-time Dudy Noble Field record for attendance in a year (233,015). Sure, it has a lot to do with the large amount of home games this year, but it’s still really cool so why not say you were apart of it?
Win 40 games – At 38-15 the Dawgs are just two wins away from 40. We haven’t had 40 regular season wins since 1997.
Let’s get ‘em Dawgs! Hail State.
As you might imagine, it’s normally a LOT more fun to write about MSU when we are winning. However, there are always exceptions in life- this is about as happy as I could be writing about a series loss- to Ole Miss no less. Why? Because sometimes what you do last is what you remember the most.
Mississippi State came into the baseball series with Ole Miss in Oxford coming off of a sweep of Alabama and it looked like things were going our way. Sure, this was a road series, Ole Miss has Bobby Wahl a likely first round pick, and I’m also pretty sure the memory of MSU winning the Governor’s Cup fueled some thoughts of revenge for Ole Miss- but if you were MSU, you had to like the way a lot of things were going.
And then the rain came….
Which delayed the series except for one half inning to Saturday and was quite possibly the WORST thing that could have happened to MSU. What that delay did is cause Mike Bianco to switch out his starters, and allowed Mike Mayers to basically save an inning- an inning that MSU probably could have used to get into the Ole Miss bullpen. Instead, he pitches out of his mind and shuts out MSU. Then Kendall Graveman has the worst game of his life allowing six runs, and the MSU team allowed 10 total while the offense could only muster 8 against Ole Miss’s normal Sunday guys. In hindsight, I sure wish we would have had Graveman vs. Mayers, but it didn’t work out like that.
So, now Sunday comes and MSU has already lost the series and now they get to face Bobby Wahl. I’m sure that they were smelling sweep. In fact I KNOW they were smelling sweep because they had some guy dressed up in a Bear costume with a broom dancing in front of the MSU dugout before the game.
Now I’m going to take this moment to explain something about baseball to people. I’m Southern Baptist. I believe in God (Capital G). But in baseball, you also have baseball gods (little g). Now, much like God, I don’t know what baseball gods look like- probably Babe Ruth or Harry Caray- but what I do know is you do not want to anger the baseball gods. Having someone dress up in a costume with a broom and dancing in front of your opponent will probably get your team smitten in the worst way you can imagine- like blowing a six run lead after your team does its ritualistic dugout dance. Love is gone indeed. More like Lead is gone. Or the Sweep is gone.
Game three was remarkable. Especially when you consider that MSU didn’t have Jonathan Holder available. It was Ben Bracewell who pitched five innings of one hit baseball. He also struck out three batters. You have to be happy for him- he has had multiple surgeries on his arm and it’s sad because he has a lot of talent. I remember watching him in high school, and he went 15-0 as a senior and I just loved how competitive he was. I think that really showed through on Sunday.
Another remarkable thing about game three- 0 hits for Hunter Renfroe. It was another All-American stepping up in Adam Frazier. 3 for 4 with four RBI’s including a huge double that got MSU back into the game and then the go ahead single that game MSU the lead for good. Absolutely clutch. And let’s not forget- it was Frazier who also had the go ahead hit that drove in what would be the winning runs in the Governor’s Cup as well. CT Bradford also had three hits, and Wes Rea had a couple of hits. When you are down like that, all you can do is chip away, and really you are hoping for one big inning. We got that in the sixth, and I think the momentum just carried over into the seventh. MSU’s approach vs. Wahl was smart- make him get his pitch count up and get into the bullpen and then take the game.
We were very fortunate that we didn’t allow too many runs to where we couldn’t come back. MSU’s starting pitching HAS TO STEP UP. And I can not emphasize that enough. Pollorena had a passable outing- 5.2 IP with 2 earned runs allowed, and we got shut out. So, I’m not going to be too hard on him. But Graveman and Lindgren MUST step it up. I think the biggest thing is they have to keep the ball down. The sad thing is, this team misses Brandon Woodruff and if you are in the SEC, you really need an ace like a Chris Stratton or a Wahl to have a chance at a championship. It’s not a coincidence that Vanderbilt has two pitchers who could be first round picks on their team right now and they have won the SEC already.
But it’s not all on the pitching- you won’t see our defense on any Tom Emanski videos unless it’s what not to do. Officially, we only had four errors. But Adam Frazier misplayed a ball that led to a couple of runs and then Wes Rea throws one in the dirt in front of the plate which allowed a couple of runs to score. We have to fix that right now.
The thing about games where you come from way back though- usually they aren’t very clean- so it’s not too surprising that there were some mistakes. Those all kind of get overlooked because coming back is one of the most emotionally uplifting things that can happen to a team. Right now, our guys are sky high. And that coupled with two come from behind wins over Alabama builds confidence. And when you have confidence, you are tough to beat in baseball. Now, on top of all of that, we get to go back to friendly Starkville, Mississippi to take on Oral Roberts and South Carolina.
This is pennant time for us. All the games are big. Oral Roberts is up first- we need to win that game. We can not overlook them because their RPI is 109. I don’t think beating them will really help us out too much, but I do think it could hurt us a little bit. After that, the South Carolina series is basically a showdown between the SEC RPI 10 in MSU and RPI 11 in South Carolina. The thing about college baseball is it’s not exactly black and white what we are both playing for. To make it simple, pretty much if we win the series, we stay ahead of South Carolina and if South Carolina wins the series, they will probably leap ahead of us. So, what that likely affects is possibly who gets to host a regional and who maybe is on the bubble of hosting a regional. In my opinion, the SEC will get 2-3 National Seeds, and 4-5 regional hosts. But with the committee you just never know what they are going to do and emphasize, so it’s extremely important to stay as high as possible. Also, there are things like whether our game with Memphis is considered a neutral site or a road game. And sometimes something like that can be a discrepancy between the committee and the web sites.
So, as usual- come out and pack the park. I know our team appreciated the MSU fans that showed up in Oxford this weekend, and based on what I saw, it looked like there was a good bit of maroon there. Remember that the games vs. South Carolina are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday which is a little different than normal. Hopefully the weather will be nice and our seniors will have great weekends!
Speaking of, I would be remiss if I did not congratulate the students and their families that graduated from Mississippi State this weekend. One of whom was my brother who received his Phd. So, a special congratulations from me to him and I am very proud of him for all the hard work that he has done over the years!
As always, Fight for Mississippi State!
In football we all know what happened in the Egg Bowl…Mississippi came to play and used the game to secure a bowl berth. In basketball, Rick Ray’s squad got up off the mat to beat an Ole Miss team squarely on the bubble – the loss looked to be devastating but they were able to bounce back and win the SEC Tournament.
In the last of the three big sports MSU comes to Oxford on the precipice of hosting their first Regional since 2003. OM is looking to spoil that opportunity and possibly make some magic of their own as they have an RPI of 20 and an outside shot at hosting. State won the Governor’s Cup this year, 5-1, on April 9th.
1. LSU, 19-5
2. Arkansas, 15-8
3. Mississippi State, 13-11
4. Ole Miss, 12-12
5. Alabama, 11-12
6. Texas A&M, 10-13
7. Auburn, 9-15
1. Vanderbilt, 21-2
2. South Carolina, 13-10
3. Florida, 12-12
4. Kentucky, 10-14
5. Missouri, 7-17
6. Tennessee, 6-16
7. Georgia, 5-16
As you can see, MSU is just 1/2 game behind South Carolina for the 4 seed in the SEC Tournament. This year the top 4 seeds get a bye on Day 1 (Tuesday), which is a single elimination day which leads into a double elimination tournament starting on Wednesday. State plays USC next weekend, but obviously this weekend’s series gives the Dawgs a chance to put some distance between them and Ole Miss. State holds the tie-breaker with Florida who is one game back.
The one blemish on State’s nearly flawless resume is a 6-7 road record. Taking 2 of 3 in Oxford would bring that to a respectable .500 mark, and would make it very hard to deny Starkville as a Regional hosting location.
The first matchup of the series will be a good one: Bobby Wahl (9-0, 1.21) vs. Luis Pollorena (6-2, 3.92). On paper this seems like an obvious mismatch, but maybe it’s not. Pollo is known as a Rebel killer (1-0, 2.63 ERA in 17.1 IP over 3 games), State has won both of his starts vs. Ole Miss the last two years. Wahl is a great pitcher – he only has 5 career losses, but two have them have come to MSU.
Mississippi’s 2nd & 3rd starters aren’t nearly as dominating and, on paper, State should have the upper hand. Hopefully Jacob Lindgren can get back on track in his Sunday role.
On offense, Stuart Turner leads the way for them as much as Hunter Renfroe does for us. He is hitting .397 with 5 HR and 46 RBI this year.
It should be a great series. Hail State.
Sometimes in baseball, the biggest games and biggest moments come when you least expect it. It’s easy to look at the schedule and see “LSU”, “Vanderbilt” and think right off the bat, “those are big games”. Other times it’s not so obvious. I think the Alabama series this past weekend fall into the “not so obvious” category. There are a couple of reasons for this- one, we got some extremely gutsy performances from some players that are not necessarily “star” players- such as Mitch Slauter, Chad Girodo, and Brett Pirtle, and two for the first time this year we were able to get a walk-off win after being down late in the game. Baseball players are taught to be incredibly even keel- when I would hang out with my uncle in spring training it was absolutely fascinating to see first hand how they train players to deal with pressure situations and how to handle both success and failure from a psychological standpoint. But if there is one thing that can really get a team confident, it’s a come from behind walk-off win. And we did it back to back days- and perhaps even more importantly, it can make individual players more confident. Yes, baseball is a team sport- but the more productive players you have, the better team you have. Also, from a psychological standpoint, it’s very important for our team to KNOW that they can come back if they are presented with that situation.
Perhaps the only downside to the weekend was the fact that our starting pitchers did not get a quality start. The only good thing is I don’t have to hear about how Cohen and Butch don’t trust the bullpen- which is hilarious to me because the reason our bullpen wasn’t getting used was because we were getting a lot of great starts from our starters. A quality start to me- and I believe this is the same definition as the stat “quality start”- is six innings pitched while allowing three runs or less. Kendall Graveman came close- he pitched six innings, but allowed four runs, while Luis Pollorena pitched 4.1 while allowing five runs, and Jacob Lindgren was only able to get through three innings and while he only allowed 2 runs, one of which was unearned, he also allowed seven hits. The bad thing about Pollorena’s outing was we had a huge lead, and we allowed them to get back in the game, which is the one thing you do not want to do. We need these three guys to give us at least five every time out and we need them to be more effective than what they were this weekend. Alabama is the worst hitting team in the SEC- and they hit our starters pretty well.
Our bullpen was about as good as you can hope for this weekend. The shining star to me, was Chad Girodo. Bear in mind, this is a guy that struggled against Alabama last year. All he did is give us three quality innings- including getting MSU out of a 10th inning jam in game two when Alabama had a runner on third and less than two outs. His ERA is now lower than Ross Mitchell’s and Jonathan Holder’s. Of course, Holder was pretty awesome this weekend. On Sunday, he basically neutralized Alabama’s offense to where it almost gave our offense three free innings to score. Look, when you strike out a guy trying to bunt with a curveball, you are flithy. Holder faced 19 batters- he struck out 10 of them. Ben Bracewell was also solid in game one and really did a great job of bridging the game to Holder- and let’s not forget Ben twisting his ankle and coming back to get some more critical outs. There are not very many, if any college teams that have a bullpen as deep as MSU’s.
Then you have Mitch Slauter coming in late in game two after Cohen made a GREAT coaching decision to pinch hit for Nick Ammirati with Brett Pirtle, who had been ill in the days leading up to the Alabama series, who tied the game. It was fun to speculate who would come in since Slauter has a broken finger on his catching hand. Some people thought it would be Hunter Renfroe- but no, it was Slauter. I can only imagine what it would be like to break a finger and then decide to go out and catch 85-92 MPH fastballs- or even worse do what Slauter had to do AGAIN in game three- catch Holder’s 94 MPH fastballs. Oh, and while he was at it, he got down a key bunt in the 10th inning even though he hasn’t had an at bat on two weeks, and I can only venture to guess how much he has practiced hitting which was without a doubt very little.
The list of heroes goes on- Wes Rea went a solid four for twelve and hit a home run and two doubles as well as an RBI single which started a two out rally that ultimately tied the game. Sam Frost might have set a MSU record for bunt singles while filling in for Pirtle for game two. Hunter Renfroe hit a key home run in game two and CT Bradford showed up by hitting .500 for the weekend series with a seven hit series, highlighted by his four hit three RBI Sunday. Perhaps the most exciting thing to see was the emergence of Jacob Robson who now finds himself hitting .247 with a game tying single in the seventh and the walk-off hit in game two. His game tying hit in game three would have made Ichiro proud- right behind the pitchers mound and in front of second base. Without a doubt, he should start for us in left field at least for the time being. I think he is starting to get it as far as SEC pitching goes. The first sign I saw was actually the Sunday game against Florida when he had an opposite field double, which made me raise my eyebrows in a good way.
One of the bad things about come from behind victories is the reason your team GOT behind was because you probably screwed something up to put you in that position. That was the case with us with errors. We didn’t make a lot of errors, but we made key errors, and we paid every single time we made one. Hunter Renfroe tries to throw a ball in to the cut off man who is supposed to be at second- and instead of looking, he just assumes is there, and of course someone SHOULD have been there, and then there’s a stray ball running around while the runners are taking extra bases. Detz is still learning how to play third base, and he made a couple of errors in innings that Alabama scored runs in. One was kind of a hustle error, but it also showed his inexperience when he tried to double up a runner and he throws the ball away.
Also, we HAVE to find ways to get Adam Frazier and Alex Detz on base more consistently, or use someone that will get on base whether or not it’s one of those two. Combined they went 4 out of 25 with three RBI’s and combined they walked two times. And it’s not a coincidence that the game we scored 10 runs in, was the same game that those two had all three of their RBI’s in. We HAVE to get runners on in front of Hunter Renfroe, Brett Pirtle, Wes Rea, and maybe even now a hot CT Bradford. Now, you may be thinking- well, if our lead off and number two hitter get on, they are probably going to walk Hunter Renfroe- well, they might depending on the game situation- but you know what? If they want to take on Brett Pirtle or Wes Rea who can hit the ball a mile with the bases loaded- be my guest. And actually, if we don’t get runners on in front of Renfroe, it means that teams can really pitch around him because now there are three open bases to put him. Renfroe is so dangerous, he’s is going to be pitched carefully no matter what the situation is unless it’s a home run derby. The best remedy for that is for the guys in front of Renfroe to get on, and for the guys hitting behind him to make pitchers pay for being careful with him.
As MSU fans, how many years have we gone to a regional, and we look back at the season and we say, “man, if we had beaten, so and so, we probably host.” A lot of fans around the country say that as well. Games like this, and series like this- sometimes winning these games end up making the difference when it comes to hosting or not. We won all three, so that is extremely huge for our team in that it keeps a potential black eye off of our record. It also means that we still control our destiny, which is where you want to be as a baseball team. With RPI, SOS, ISR- everything counts. Even those games against Mississippi Valley State in February on a Tuesday. The rest of our schedule is tough from a RPI standpoint, but to me, that’s good because it means we have a chance to earn our way in and possibly move up. The next obstacle is Ole Miss in Oxford, which is a difficult place to play. And because of that, as always our team needs as much maroon as they can get into that place. So, if you are in the area and you can make it- I highly encourage MSU fans to go and support the team. It would be awesome if the grandstand was a majority maroon and white.
Until next week,
After what happened in the last six games of the 2012 season, it seems like Mississippi State football fans have a collective “meh” feeling. I guess five losses by an average of 21 points including a loss to Ole Miss and the bowl game will do that to you.
Look at the spring game attendance: 21,000 showed up for the maroon and white game. The SEC average was 40,733 – but looking at some recent spring games it shows the level of disinterest. 2012′s game – one in which you had to pay for – drew more: 22,604. In 2011: 36,357. In 2010: 34,127.
It was a beautiful Saturday. The baseball team got 14,562 in Dudy Noble Field for the 2nd largest crowd in NCAA baseball history. The free football scrimmage could only muster 6,500 more?
There is definitely a segment of the fanbase that either doesn’t want Mullen anymore or has Mullen on their last string. That’s just the way it is these days. But even so, plenty of other State fans don’t seem to be very excited.
Do we just want something more than the couple of 8-4 seasons and three bowl games we’ve seen?
Are we just down in the dumps about how our season ended?
Is Ole Miss’ rise from the ashes on the field and recruiting trails getting us down?
Are the prospects of an insanely tough 2013 schedule and another 6-6 year just not enough to get the juices flowing?
Metaphor (not a comparison so no need to write a strongly worded e-mail): as a fanbase we are like the nation of Israel when Moses led God’s people out of slavery in Egypt. They wanted to get there so badly they stopped believing God would deliver them so they created false idols and disobeyed God. As punishment God made them wander the desert for 40 years in search of the promised land.
MSU flat out sucked from 2001-2006 and we weren’t really that great 2007-2009 either. But we’ve exited that terrible period and have entered one where we are no longer suffering, but we haven’t reached the pentacle. There are some in our fanbase ready to give up on the current course – ready to go in a different direction to reach the top. Metaphor over.
I almost feel like the fanbase is at a crossroads in 2013. I’ll throw a number out there – 15% – that would like Mullen gone. Maybe another 20% are just indifferent about him. Another 40% just aren’t as excited about the prospects of another season beating up on a few non-conference foes, Kentucky, and a couple others to end up in a lower-tier bowl game. What used to be the goal is now expected.
If we go 6-6 and lose to Ole Miss again, you can bet that 20% is going to jump into the 15% and create about 1/3 of our fanbase wanting Mullen gone. The linchpin to the psyche of a good majority of our fanbase is that Ole Miss game. If we go 6-6 but beat Ole Miss I’d say things stay the same.
Still, fans want more that what we’ve been getting, and that probably means some signature wins. If nothing else, it can get stale if you know when you’re going to win and when you’re going to lose. Even if we only go 6-6 but we beat say a LSU or South Carolina and lose to Kentucky or something I think there would be more excitement.
While there are some things the football program can do to bring excitement, I think there are also plenty of things the fans should do as well. We have to stay the course and keep supporting the program.
As Coach mentioned last week, we are on a similar trajectory as South Carolina has been under Steve Spurrier. Right now we’ve put together back-to-back really good recruiting classes. Do that a couple more times and you’ll have an entire team of top 25 classes. Improvements are being made to the coaching staff, the facilities, stadium, etc.
This is a very exciting time for the MSU football program. Never in our history have we made it to four consecutive bowl games – we have a chance to do that in 2013. In the same sense that we are building onto Davis Wade, we are building a football program…it just takes time.
I hope State fans maintain the excitement level we have shown the last 3+ years and pack the stadium every week, give to the Bulldog Club and help lift our football program to the next level. We will get to the promised land.
Can losing in baseball be a good thing? My answer is no. But sometimes what losing can do is teach you lessons about what you need to do to get to a championship level and how far you have come. This past weekend, our baseball team learned some really hard and not very fun lessons. Under John Cohen, our baseball program has come a long way since 2008- but right now, we are a top 15 team that isn’t quite up to the level of a top five team, which is what Vanderbilt is at the moment. Making it even more difficult, we played on the road. Throw in slick, wet astroturf with a speed team going up against our groundball pitchers- bad, bad BAD match-up for us. Oh and for good measure- let’s throw in a guy that’s a top 50 MLB draft prospect on Friday and then an EVEN BETTER pitcher on Saturday who still hasn’t lost a game might be the very first pick of the MLB draft next year.
That’s not to make excuses. What it was in reality was a MISSED opportunity. An opportunity to possibly beat a top five team on the road and possibly just about clinch a regional spot and put ourselves squarely in the discussion for a National Seed. It was an opportunity to build our confidence with even one win. At the end of the day, we missed that opportunity, and even though it didn’t hurt us that bad from an RPI standpoint, South Carolina took advantage of their opportunity and moved ahead of us for the moment.
All is not lost, though. I’ve seen some of our fans say things like “there goes our regional host spot” and other end of the baseball season world comments. One thing about baseball is any team can get hot at any time and at any moment. We still have ten games left and we still have a very good opportunity to host as long as we take care of business. And just like life, something that is worth having, you have to earn and work hard for. You don’t get a regional by beating up on Mississippi Valley State six times- although Arkansas might prove me wrong this year. Of those ten, we have seven in Starkville, including the final series against South Carolina which could be a showdown for that final National Seed or regional spot depending on how the final weeks go. Believe you me- I would MUCH rather face them in Starkville than Columbia.
From a team standpoint, I think the biggest lesson that our team learned was we can not make little mistakes against elite teams and get away with it. That to me, really killed us more than anything- whether it was defense, whether it was at the plate and striking out when we need to make contact, or swinging at the first pitch from a wild pitcher when we had a rally going on to kill the rally. We were very competitive with them the first two games, and our mistakes were the difference. In fact, against Tyler Beede- the guy that is undefeated and might be the top pick in the draft that I was talking about- we had the most hits against him of anyone he has faced this year. The good thing about playing in an adverse environment like that is when you get back to a “normal” environment, it makes things seem easier. Of course, our normal environment is Dudy-Noble Field with grass. Like baseball is MEANT to be played on.
Another thing I have seen MSU fans talk about is how we “lack SEC players”. If you’re comparing us to Vanderbilt, well then yes, I guess we “lack SEC players”- but Hunter Renfroe is among the league leaders in home runs and batting average, Adam Frazier played on Team USA, Kendall Graveman was drafted by the Marlins, Wes Rea and Brett Pirtle are both hitting over .300 in SEC play, and I expect Jacob Lindgren to be drafted after his junior year. That’s not to say that we don’t have some holes- like DH and third base from a defensive standpoint- but it’s not like the cupboard is bare. And because there are some holes- let me tell you what I would do to try to fix it. Play Nick Flair at third base, and move Alex Detz to DH. I know that there are maybe some issues with Flair’s defense, but I can’t imagine that he would be any worse than Sam Frost is- who, bless his heart simply does not have the arm strength to play third base. Detz has been OK. But I did see Flair in warm-ups before the Memphis game and he looked to me, as good if not better than anyone else out there at the very least. Oh yeah- and he is hitting OVER .500 in very limited action. He might be kind of a secret weapon to an extent because he hasn’t had a lot of at bats, so there probably won’t be very much of a book on him. If he gave us a little bit more power, it would be REALLY nice as well.
At this point, you have probably wondered at least once how Vanderbilt is getting all of these great baseball players. First of all, they are a private institution and they have a lot of money that they can give to students in a “need based” situation. Like if you are a pitcher that is drafted in the first round, you are all of a sudden going to be considered very needy. This is legal per NCAA rules by the way. On top of that, Tim Corbin, Vanderbilt’s coach has been there for eleven seasons now- or over twice as long as Cohen has been at MSU. He now has a track record of success of developing pitchers- some of whom were drafted in the first round like out of high school, and they are now reaping the benefits. I can guarantee you that when he was in his fifth season at Vanderbilt like Cohen is at MSU, they had nowhere near the talent as a complete team as he has now even though he certainly had some talented players like David Price and Pedro Alvarez at that time.
Another thing I want to point out too is the culture of baseball and the draft is changing rapidly and the SEC is a big part of that change. Back 20 years ago, if you were drafted the thought was almost automatically to sign because you were going to be rich and they were going to pay for your college. And if you went to college, you were probably going to get hurt, burn out your arm, etc. Recently, Major League Baseball put together a task force about issues in the game ranging from PED’s, to the schedule, to the draft and many other things. One of the issues was former baseball players were having a lot of difficulty transitioning back into society (sounds like they are prisoners) after their career is over and the reason was because they did not have the education to get a job immediately after their playing days were over. It was leading to a lot of divorce and other bad things. Another issue was paying these unproven players out of high school and college large bonuses and the sometimes lengthy negotiations that were going on along with it. So, what they did is come up with a slotting system where each team gets a certain amount of money to spend on draft picks based on how many draft picks they have and also where that team finished the previous year. If a team goes over its allotted money, they are taxed 75%. So, when you are drafted, you pretty much know what you are going to be offered.
Here is a random example from the New York Mets who picked 12th in the draft last year so you can get an idea of what kind of money these guys are being offered.
Name Pick Signing Bonus
Gavin Cecchini 12 $2.3 million
Kevin Plawecki 35 $1.4 million
Matt Reynolds 71 $525,000
Teddy Stankiewicz 75 Did Not Sign
Matt Koch 107 $425,000
Branden Kaupe 140 $225,000
Brandon Welch 170 $200,000
Jayce Boyd 200 $150,000
Corey Oswalt 230 $475,000
Tomas Nido 260 $250,000
Richie Rodriguez 290 $10,000
Paul Sewald 320 $10,000
So, as you can see- these players are not being offered what most would consider “life-changing” money based on our current economy, and it’s encouraging more players to go to college. Also, the SEC is the most high profile collegiate league in the country followed by the ACC and the PAC-12. What is happening in some cases is players that go and play in the SEC are moving very quickly through the minor leagues- for example Michael Roth has appeared with the Angels and he came back to South Carolina for his senior year and Mike Zunino is already in triple A with the Mariners and will be up this year.
What it means for us at MSU is we can start to recruit and possibly retain more and more elite talent than ever before. Of course, this is true of the other SEC schools as well. In fact, I only see the SEC getting stronger in baseball now that there is a new SEC Network and ESPN is now showing more and more college baseball games. In fact, if we host a regional and ESPN shows what Dudy-Noble Field is like during a regional to the nation- HUGE recruiting tool for us. Baseball players want to play in front of big crowds like that, and that is something we would have over someone like Vanderbilt.
Going forward in our present- we have Alabama coming in this weekend at Dudy-Noble Field, and I think that is exactly what our team needs right now- to get back home and have a chance to apply the lessons that they learned this last weekend. As always, the team needs your support, maybe even more than ever now. Another 14,000 would be awesome especially since it isn’t Super Bulldog Weekend. The fans have done an awesome job, and let’s keep it up because I know it’s appreciated.
The NFL Draft was this weekend and three MSU players heard their names called. The run of players selected in the first round ends at two as potential 1st round pick Johnthan Banks ended up going 43rd overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In a bit of a surprise, Darius Slay was actually drafted higher than Banks as he went 36th overall to the Detroit Lions. Slay’s rise up the draft board was pretty incredible as he went from a seldom-used junior in 2011 to leading the team in INTs in 2012 and ultimately being drafted higher than his Jim Thorpe Award-winning teammate Banks.
“Precinct 9-13″ was definitely a talented duo – to have two senior cornerbacks on the same field both get drafted early in the 2nd round, but they were obviously mishandled by Chris Wilson last year. They got a lot of interceptions, but with NFL talent like that it is sad they played such soft zone and corner blitzes that didn’t always utilize their lock-down ability.
Josh Boyd was the third and final Bulldog selected as he went 167th overall (5th round) to the Green Bay Packers.
A few other undrafted MSU players were quickly picked up by NFL teams: Arceto Clark to Seattle, Dwayne Cherrington to New England, Chad Bumphis to Miami and Cam Lawrence to Dallas.
In a human interest story, former MSU player Dontae Walker has gotten his life back on track and graduated from college this weekend.