Expectations for the 2014 Diamond Dawgs

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It’s almost time. The build-up and anticipation of this baseball season has reached levels not seen in over a decade. For sure, MSU baseball is back. 

After being national runner-up in 2013 and signing the #2 ranked recruiting class in the nation you can certainly understand the excitement. Then the polls came out –

  • #2 by Collegiate Baseball
  • #2 by College Baseball Writers Association
  • #4 by USA Today Coaches Poll
  • #6 by Perfect Game
  • #8 by Baseball America

If MSU hasn’t been selected as the team to beat in the SEC, they are only behind LSU or South Carolina in some cases. That is very, very nice company to be in. There is no doubt Mississippi State is right back where every fan in the Left Field Lounge wants us to be – a national contender.

But before we jump off into national championship talk or being right back in Omaha, we’ve got to take a step back. What the 2013 team did was nothing short of amazing. They fought, scrapped, danced and piecemeal-ed their way to the national championship series. That team was that team. Hunter Renfroe, Adam Frazier, Kendall Graveman, Chad Girodo, Luis Pollorena, Frost, Porter, Ammo and Slauter are all gone. A new group of players have joined the program and they’ll have their own identity. Not only that, but it is very difficult to navigate your way through the Regionals and Super Regionals to get to Omaha. You may be one of the top eight teams in the nation, but in baseball nothing is in stone when the tournament starts.

So I don’t think we can go into the 2014 season expecting a College World Series. Sure, it would be somewhat disappointing if we didn’t get there, but the main goal has to be setting yourself up for a run to the CWS. That means a national seed.

State has progressed each year under Cohen. From a three seed in the Atlanta Regional in 2011 to a two seed in the Tallahassee Regional in 2012 to hosting a Regional in 2013. The next step (ideally) is to become one of the eight teams who have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. MSU is ranked in the top eight in every preseason poll – but we’ll have to prove it on the field to make it a reality.

Goal #1: winning the SEC.

This is what the Dawgs have to have their eye on. It’s hard to believe but State hasn’t won the SEC regular season championship since 1989. That’s 25 years! We’ve won the SEC Tournament four times since then and been the the CWS five times since then, but have not won the SEC.

Vanderbilt’s 26-3 record last year was an anomaly. Generally speaking a 20-10 record gives you a chance to win the league, and as many as 22 wins almost guarantees at least a share of it. In the last three years MSU has won 14, 16 and 16 SEC games respectively. A jump to 20 is not far fetched – especially considering where the Bulldogs are ranked.

Winning the SEC is assurance of a national seed. Getting to that point sets you up with a better path to Omaha and another chance to play for a national championship.

Goal #2: win it all. 

I don’t expect MSU to win it all. That is unreasonable just for the very nature of baseball. My hope is that we are competing for the SEC championship and playing well at the end of the year to give ourselves a chance for ultimate glory. The nice thing about college baseball is you don’t have to accomplish goal #1 to have a shot at goal #2.

This is an new team. Some of the players from last year, or the last 2-3 years remain. But they’ll have to find their own way just like the teams before them – as fans we can’t always expect a linear progression of success. This team may win the SEC. They may come in 4th, or 8th. They may tank. We don’t know – there are variables in every college baseball season.

This season should be a lot of fun. There will be ups and downs, and times Cohen makes you want to pull your hair out with his outside the box moves. But he’s proven that he knows what he’s doing, and while we may be in a funk at times we’ll figure out a way to be hitting full stride at the right time. Looking forward to a great year, Hail State!