What We Learned- Dancing Bear With a Broom Edition


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!