Revamping Expectations


So we aren’t where we thought we would be at this point in the baseball season. We were hoping to battle for a Conference Championship, but we are stuck in a tie for 7th place as of right now. The season is not lost, but achieving what we wanted to at the beginning of the year is very much a long shot right now. This can happen when you have sky high expectations. The best thing to do is examine what we can still accomplish.

Getting a National Seed

This was the goal at the beginning of the year. Being one of the eight national seeds in the NCAA Tournament does not guarantee you a spot in Omaha, but it certainly makes things easier. Being one of the national seeds means you get to play on your home field for the entire tournament except for the College World Series. With the crowds we can draw to Dudy Noble Field, that is an incredible advantage. Can we still get it?

What it will take: At 7-8 in the SEC, we probably have to win 12 or 13 of our remaining regular season games and have a solid showing in the SEC Tournament if we want this to happen. Is it possible? Yes, but it is a long shot. The good news is the hardest part of our schedule is over with. The last 5 teams we have to play are a combined 35-40 in SEC play with 10 of those wins belonging to one opponent, Alabama. There isn’t any reason that we shouldn’t win every series with the lone exception being Alabama. With that series being played in Tuscaloosa, we need to avoid getting swept that series.

Chance we get a national seed: 10%, and honestly, that is probably on the high end. Assuming we lose two games in Tuscaloosa, that means we would have to lose no more than one game before that series. That’s a pretty tall order. It’s not impossible considering the teams we will play in that time, but it isn’t likely.

Hosting a Regional

This goal is a little bit more in reach. We have some good wins, and we still have a good opponent on the schedule in Alabama. Despite the disappointing start, we are still in the Top 25 and have time to make up some ground. We hosted a regional last year despite having a 16-14 record in conference play. The biggest difference between this year and last year is that we didn’t have any RPI killing nonconference losses. The losses to UCA last year weren’t that bad because they had a pretty high RPI themselves. What will it take to make it happen?

What it will take: To at least host, I think we need at least 10 wins over these last 5 opponents. We will also probably need to make it to at least the semis of the SEC Tournament as well. The biggest problem with the remaining schedule is that any loss we take is a hit on our Tournament resume. We can afford to lose one or two, but not much more than that.

Chances it will happen: 50%. I think this is reasonable still, but it certainly isn’t guaranteed. We can and should win the next four series, but everything that we thought should have happened entering this weekend hasn’t come together. Baseball is a funny game, and if we run up against a good pitcher on a bad team, and we may be looking at unexpected loss.

Being a #2 Seed

This is by far the most reachable goal. As of right now, those who predict the Tournament have us slotted as a #2 seed. If we end up being a #2 seed, I’d rather be a #2 in one of the non national seed host sites. That makes it much more likely that we could win that regional.

What it will take: We would basically need to flip our current SEC Record over the next 15 games and go 8-7. That means winning two series and losing two. The two we lost would have to be Alabama, and either Auburn or Texas A&M to not just kill our RPI. Losing the series to Missouri or Tennessee would really hurt.

Chances it will happen: I am going to go with 75%. This is no guarantee, but there isn’t any reason it shouldn’t happen. There will be no question entering these next four series which team has more talent, we just have to execute.

Why are We Even at This Point?

For all of the talk about our struggles offensively, the biggest reason we aren’t winning like we want to is because we aren’t pitching as well as most of us believed we would. Mississippi State was supposed to have one of the best, if not the best, pitching staff in the SEC. The offense was never going to put up 6 or 7 runs a game. We had a lineup that was supposed to score 4 or 5 runs most games. It’d be nice to get to that point, but if the pitching is going to allow the number of runs it has the past six conference games, then we are in serious trouble. We have given up 45 runs in our last six conference games. That simply won’t cut it.

It also isn’t a coincidence that we hid this skid when Preston Brown got injured. We don’t have the pitching depth that we are accustomed to, so losing our Friday night starter is a big blow. Coach Thompson said that he might be able to return next weekend against Texas A&M, so let’s all hope that happens. Ben Bracewell and Brandon Woodruff had shown lots of improvement in their most recent appearances entering Super Bulldog Weekend, but they both got hammered against Ole Miss. I am a little concerned about Ross Mitchell. He looked rattled during his start against LSU after he committed the error that led to the two runs against him to score. Instead of rebounding against Ole Miss, he had arguably his worst appearance in his three years as a Bulldog.

All of that being said, I wouldn’t be shocked if our line up starts to look more like a respectable SEC team starting this weekend, and our pitchers start to be the dominant players we thought they were. Missouri has little going for it, and Auburn and Texas A&M are struggling. Tennessee has looked much more like we thought they would now that they are in the meat of their conference schedule. Also, the past three years, Cohen has led the Bulldogs to a 27-18 record in the second half of the conference schedule. I hate that it looks like getting to a National Seed is out of reach, but that doesn’t mean the season is lost. There is still talent on this team, and they could still go far. It just doesn’t seem as likely as it once did.