With a busy week gone and another to come, I’m introducing a new weekly article, out every Monday, looking back on the week that was and the week upcoming in Bulldog sports. In a week that saw a new basketball coach hired, the baseball team continuing to struggle, and the softball team taking down the defending national champs, there’s a lot to get to.
First, the week that was, followed by what’s upcoming for each sport.
Where We’ve Been
After announcing the firing of Rick Ray, there was much speculation about who the new guy would be. The program was suffering from major apathy and the new coach needed to be someone who could step in and rejuvenate the fan base. After only two days, Scott Stricklin announced the hiring of UCLA coach Ben Howland. Coach Howland meets all the criteria that every fan was looking for in the new coach. He brings with him success at every stop along the way and instantly energized a fan base in much need of some good news. Howland has hit the ground running in recruiting, visiting the top target for 2015, Malik Newman. With the Bulldogs all but out of the race under Ray, Howland’s hiring puts the Bulldogs firmly in the mix for the highly touted guard from Jackson. It’s crazy to see the level at which the national brand of our basketball program has risen over only a week, but I think I speak for all Bulldog fans when I say that this past week turned the direction of the program. This past week has me itching to get to the Hump to see the team in action and to the new heights to which I believe Coach Howland will take us.
Where We’re Going
With the season over, the upcoming week will mainly involve recruiting. Bulldog target and blue-chipper Malik Newman will be playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game Wednesday at 8 PM CST in Chicago. The game will be televised on ESPN and will give Bulldog fans a peek at what type of dynamic player the Bulldogs are trying to land. Howland has also heavily targeted JUCO big man Ray Kasongo, so it will be interesting to see if any news regarding his recruitment and Mississippi State comes out this week.
In regard to the current team, Howland stated in his introductory press conference that the team would begin off-season workouts today, March 30th. I would not expect much news regarding these workouts but it will be interesting to see going forward how the players are taking to the new coach’s style. It will also be interesting to monitor in the upcoming weeks to see if any of the players leave the team. It is not at all uncommon for players to leave following a coaching change, so that would be something to monitor.
Where We’ve Been
While the basketball program trended up last week, the Diamond Dogs continued their downward trend with a disappointing 1-3 showing this week. The Bulldogs were shutout the first three games of the week and dropped their third straight series in SEC play. The Dogs dropped a 3-0 decision in Pearl on Tuesday night, followed by losing 2 of 3, including the first two games, to Auburn at home over the weekend. The problem this week was clearly the offense. Only scoring 3 runs in a week over 4 games is not going to win you many games. The Bulldogs tinkered with the lineup a little to frequently this week for my liking. I know Coach Cohen loves the matchup in regards to right and left-handed batters, but I believe the guys who hit the best, regardless of matchups should play everyday. Also, even if they are struggling, Seth Heck and Wes Rea are captains and should be in the lineup every day as well. Rea showed you what a force he can be in the lineup Sunday by driving one off the center field wall. Heck is a about as solid as a defender as you can hope for and gets on base for the RBI machines behind him.
Where We’re Going
The upcoming week is crucial for the season ahead. I know this has been said each week after the Bulldogs have struggled, but as we get deeper into SEC play, time is starting to run out for the team to turn it around. The Bulldogs’ RPI currently sits at 122, which means there is a lot of work to do if the Bulldogs want to make a regional. The Bulldogs will travel to Mobile, AL on Tuesday for a midweek ballgame against South Alabama before returning home for a Thursday, Friday, Saturday SEC series with #21 South Carolina. Like Mississippi State, the Gamecocks are coming off a 1-3 week, including a SEC home series loss to Georgia. There would be no better way to turn the season around than by taking a series against a nationally-ranked team. The upcoming stretch of SEC series for Mississippi State is brutal and a series win against South Carolina could give the Bulldogs the confidence they need going forward.
Where We’ve Been
The Bulldog softball team finished the week 3-2, but it was quite an eventful week. Mississippi State traveled down to Hattiesburg for a midweek double dip with Southern Miss and had a historic performance in game 1. Bulldog pitcher Alexis Silkwood tossed a no-hitter in a 10-0 victory over the Golden Eagles. The Bulldogs then followed that up later in the week with a come from behind, walk off victory over #2 and defending national champions Florida. Trailing 3-0 heading into the bottom of the 7th, Mississippi State scored 5, capped off by a Caroline Seitz 3-run walk off homer to capture a 5-3 win. This team is incredibly resilient and has a number of comeback wins on the season.
Where We’re Going
The Bulldogs will play all four games on the road this week as they will head to Nashville for a midweek game with Lipscomb before heading to Fayetteville to take on the Razorbacks Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. The next home game is set for Wednesday, April 8th against LSU. I encourage everyone to go catch a game at the MSU Softball Complex because this team refuses to lose and is filled with young talent.
Where We’ve Been/Where We’re Going
With the chaos of all that happened last week, football spring practice seemed to take a back seat, which it almost never does. The team started practicing in pads last week and will do so again some this week. So far (fingers crossed it continues) no one has suffered any serious injury. The upcoming season promises to be one of the most hyped ever with the return of Dak Prescott and a chance at a division crown very much attainable. Spring practice will continue for the next couple of weeks culminating on Super Bulldog Weekend with the spring game at Davis Wade Stadium. Make sure to listen to Maroon and White Nation’s Jake Wimberly on Double Coverage on Bulldog Sports Radio for anything and everything Bulldog football, including the latest from spring practice.
It’s an exciting time to be a Bulldog and I hope everyone has a great Easter weekend. Hail State!