After a smooth sailing 13-0 start and coming off their third straight 4-game weekend sweep, including 2 wins over Arizona, everything in the Mississippi State baseball program seemed to be rolling. The pitching had been great and the Maple Hammer was getting on base whenever he stepped to the plate. Then, on a rainy night in a seemingly guaranteed midweek game against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, IT happened and it hasn’t stopped since.
If you’ve been following the baseball team over the past couple of weeks you are familiar with it. The starting pitcher, whoever it is, rolls along for six or seven strong innings. Usually, Mississippi State leads by two or three runs and in the past you would feel very confident that we would close it out. But oh you’d be wrong. For some reason, when that 8th inning rolls around, no one in the bullpen can seem to get anyone out. The dreaded 8th inning has cost the Bulldogs their past two weekend sets, one of which was an SEC series, and two midweek games. Since it has happened so much, to some it may seem like this team just isn’t very good and we should accept that this year may not be the year. However, I’m saying the opposite and let’s not hit the panic button on this season just yet.
I’m not going to lie to you and say that the bullpen troubles aren’t concerning. It also doesn’t help that the hitters on our team can’t seem to get a big game-changing hit when we need one. But I think this team is VERY close to being an elite team. I know it may sound “homerish” for me to say that but I believe it’s true. Every good baseball team will struggle during the season. It’s just part of the game. An example for those of you who are already throwing away this season would be last year’s national champs, the Vanderbilt Commodores. The defending champs lost 4 of their first 6 SEC series last season. Now that doesn’t sound like a team destined for a national title. It just goes to show you how much of a roller coaster ride a baseball season is. Just two weeks ago, we all thought we were one of the best teams in the nation. Now some people think we may not make the NCAA tournament. If the Bulldogs can find someone who can stem the tide out of the bullpen and close out games, this team has the starting pitching to go a long way this season.
An old coach once said, “It’s never as good as it seems; it’s never as bad as it seems, but somewhere in between reality lies.” This quote very much relates to the baseball season so far. It may not turn around, but don’t hit the panic button on this team quite yet, because I think they’ll figure it out and it all begins this weekend against Kentucky.