Mississippi State was at its lowest point when John Cohen took over the baseball program after Ron Polk retired for the second time. The Bulldogs were irrelevant in the SEC and most teams considered Cohen’s bunch an easy win. It would remain that way until the third year of Cohen’s regime. That’s when some of the things Cohen was trying to build took hold, and fans of Mississippi State baseball began to see shades of the dominant baseball program they had grown accustomed to. Since the 2011 season, the Bulldogs have made it to four straight regionals, won the SEC Tournament, hosted a regional, gone to Omaha, and appeared in the Championship Round for the first time ever as a program. The Bulldogs’ baseball team has come a long way in a short time.
But if you want to look for chinks in the armor of John Cohen’s resume, there is one. Finding critics of Cohen is not easy to do, but they are out there. Cohen’s critics argue that his reputation for turning the Bulldogs around is overinflated by a great postseason run in 2013. While I may not agree with that statement, it is hard to argue with when Cohen does not have one dominant regular season under his belt. He obviously has some good ones, but none where the Bulldogs were the team to beat and feared by their opponent.
Every season under Cohen has experienced periods of frustrating play by the baseball team, and then periods of play where they get really hot and start to put things together. 2014 was the best example of this. The Bulldogs went 18-12 in SEC play. It was the first time the Bulldogs had won at least 18 games in conference play since the 1997 team that went to the College World Series in Ron Polk’s final season the first time around. Normally, an 18-12 record in the SEC would have put the Bulldogs in the discussion as a regional host and possibly a National Seed. The problem is the Bulldogs had a remarkably high number of head scratching losses. The losses to teams like Western Carolina, Memphis, Holy Cross, and even Arizona in a down year for the Wildcats, put the Bulldogs in a position where they had to travel down to Louisiana-Lafayette and play the team ranked number 1 in all the polls and was the #6 national seed of the tournament.
There isn’t a clear consensus if you go by the preseason polls about how the Bulldogs will do this season. They are ranked as high as 14 by Perfect Game and aren’t even ranked by D1Baseball.com who has the Bulldogs projected as a 3 seed in the NCAA tournament. The Bulldogs should be better than that, but based on the large stretches where the Bulldogs had a difficult time scoring runs, expecting the Bulldogs to be any higher than a 2 seed would be a stretch. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. The pitching on this team should be as deep as any team Cohen has led in the past. That alone could propel the Bulldogs past the preseason expectations. John Cohen has a chance in 2015 to take a team that many expect to be good, and turn them into a wrecking ball.