Photo by Kelly Donoho / MSU Athletics
Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and pitcher the late Lefty Gomez once said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”
The Mississippi State University Bulldogs (37-27) here lately have been both lucky and good. I take that back. Good isn’t the right word. Great is more like it.
The Bulldogs have been lucky in the sense that having their head baseball coach resign abruptly after an 0-3 start didn’t define their season.
They’ve been great in the fact that since the start of April, the Bulldogs have turned it up a notch and now find themselves as one of the final eight teams left in the nation as they will make their 10th trip to the NCAA Division I College World Series in Omaha, Neb. starting Saturday.
After concluding the month of March with a subpar 14-15 overall record and a dismal 2-7 mark in the Southeastern Conference, the Bulldogs are 23-12 over their last 35 games with a combined 9-1 record against top ranked Florida, fourth ranked Ole Miss and eighth ranked Arkansas.
After losing to Louisiana State University 8-5 in the first game of the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala. on May 22, the Bulldogs were selected to compete in the Tallahassee Regional hosted by Florida State University. They lost the first game to Oklahoma 20-10 on June 1 but dug down deep to defeat Florida State 3-2 on June 2 and Samford 9-8 on June 3 to advance to the championship round against Oklahoma were they won two more times by the scores of 13-5 on June 3 and 8-1 on June 4 to earn a spot in the Super Regional against Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn.
The two teams locked up in an exciting regional where MSU won the first game 10-8 on Friday, while Vanderbilt won the second game 4-3 Saturday to force a third and deciding game Sunday. The Bulldogs and Commodores battled each other in a back-and-forth thriller that went into extra innings where MSU scored four runs in the top of the 11th to come away with a 10-6 victory to advance to the series. This recent run adds to an already impressive legacy of a stellar program.
Since 1948, the Bulldogs have had just nine losing seasons with 37 trips to the NCAA Tournament to go with those 10 World Series berths. Gary Henderson, who took over as head coach after previous coach Andy Cannizaro stepped down in February, has done a fantastic job of keeping the Bulldogs focused and determined, while junior outfielder and 2016 C Spire Ferriss Trophy winner Jake Mangum has been a great leader down the stretch for Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs’ perseverance this year is a prime example of why they have one of the top programs in the country.
Mississippi State will start the CWS this weekend by taking on a Washington Huskies team that will be making its first ever trip to Omaha. The Huskies (35-24) have played great at the right time as well by winning 16 of their last 21 games. This should be a great game but I must say I have my money on the Bulldogs. The Bulldogs have never won the CWS, but maybe this year is their time to finally bring that elusive national title back to Starkville.
Andy Collier is the sports editor at the Bolivar Commercial. He can be reached at (662)-843-4241 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.