Written by John Washburn | 03 June 2011

Well, last week I was drinking the Bulldog kool-aid and somehow chose to predict them making the SEC championship game.  Despite that disastrous prediction I will say that things may have turned out much different had it not been for one bad inning, one bad at-bat in particular in which Florida hits a grand slam and changes the tournament for State in the blink of an eye.  Who knows how things would have gone if State wins that first game?  But that was last week.

Based on our starting pitching I was ready to post about how I think State would likely go 2 and out this weekend.  Shows what I know.  Pollorena comes out and throws a gem.  Obviously, the extended rest helped.  Vickerson and Brownlee deliver big hits and Caleb slams the door.  State is in the winner's bracket.

And to make things a little brighter, Austin Peay shocks Georgia Tech and sends the #1 seed and host team to the loser's bracket with USM.  Tomorrow State will send Evan Mitchell to the mound against the #4 seed and MSU has a great opportunity to step into Sunday unbeaten in the tournament.  And it basically comes down to one simple question:  Can State win 2 of three games to take this regional? 

I'm not going to make a prediction.  No way.  Feel free to add yours.  

Here's my take on the rest of the NCAA field.

LSU got robbed.  Nothing sticks out more about this baseball tournament than that.  The selection committee can say all they want about a team finishing ninth in their conference, but it's ridiculous.  If you have an RPI in the 20s you deserve to play for the championship.  Simple as that.  I'm no fan of LSU but I support the SEC.  It seems to me that the NCAA is doing what they can to balance the college athletic power across the nation, and to do that you have to check the SEC's dominance.  That's why they criticize the SEC for playing weak non-conference teams in football.  That's why they emphasize RPI in basketball (isn't it the most important criteria?) and that's why they de-emphasize RPI in baseball in favor of conference standings.  It's baloney. 

You'll also notice that 4 SEC teams are paired in super-regionals together, guaranteeing that at least 2 SEC teams will be eliminated before Omaha.  How embarrasing would it be for the NCAA to have all 7 SEC teams reach Omaha?  That can't happen.

Sorry to rant, I just think it's so blatantly obvious how the NCAA tries to stack the deck against the SEC for whatever reason.  And that's one of the reasons why I pull for the SEC at all times.  Oh well, let's just keep winning football and baseball championships (and soon, basketball as well). 

Anyway, I'm gonna say my 8 CWS teams right now are:  Florida, Texas, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arizona, Oklahoma, and UCLA.  I think Vandy has a nice position in the bracket and probably the easiest road to Omaha.  While Florida and North Carolina have the most difficult paths.  I won't pick a champion, but I will stand by my statement months ago and say that I still haven't seen a better team than Florida.  Whether that translates to a championship I don't know. 

Will State make some noise in the regionals or super-regionals?

Who you got in Omaha?  Hoisting the trophy?

What about the Cowbell compromise getting extended? no comments

Written by John Washburn | 29 May 2011

The NCAA has just announced the host sites for the baseball tournament that starts next week.  Hattiesburg is not among them.  The host schools are:  Texas, Texas A&M, Florida, Vandy, South Carolina, TCU, UCLA, North Carolina, Virginia, Rice, Cal Fullerton, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Oregon State, Florida St and Arizona St.

State will likely be a two or a three seed.  I expect them to play somewhere in Texas or Atlanta.  Their seed doesn't really matter because there isn't much difference between a two and three seed team.  The location doesn't matter because it's about the same distance to travel east or west. 

What does matter is that State has lost five of their last seven ballgames, including a disappointing 2-and-out in the SEC tournament when they had Florida on the ropes late in the game.  Prior to this funk the Dogs had won 8 straight including a sweep at Tennessee and the first two on the road at TSUN.  It was during that streak that the Dogs were looking good in all aspects of the game, but starting with the game three loss to TSUN things went downhill.

I've noticed our pitching to be the main problem with the recent slump.  State has lost 5 of 7 and during that time the staff ERA has been 6.93.  Even worse, the starting trio of Pollorena, Routt and Stratton has been shelled for an ERA of 11.66.  The longest outing turned in by one of those three players during this funk was only 4.1 innings.  Our starters have disappointed in so many ways.  It's hard to win ballgames against SEC competition when your starting pitcher is giving up five or six runs right out of the gate without giving you any innings.

Compare that to State's previous 8 game winning streak.  During that streak they had a staff ERA of 3.87 and the starting trio of Pollorena, Routt and Stratton turned in a solid 4.97 ERA.  The SHORTEST outing by them in that streak was 5.1 innings.  So, yes, they gave up 5 runs a game but were pitching deep into ballgames, giving the bullpen a rest and giving the offense plenty of opportunity to win.  

To me, that's the difference.  Our starters have laid an egg in the past 7 games, the only highlights coming from guys like Evan Mitchell, Kendall Graveman and Devin Jones.  Why is this?  I don't know.

Much has been made of Cohen's toughness, of his difficult practices.  Perhaps these guys are just tired.  Or maybe they're not getting much from their pitching coach.  I noticed months ago during a game against Arkansas that Stratton was starting every hitter with a down-the-middle fastball.  Not on the corner, not at the knees or the numbers, right down the middle.  After two innings the Arky hitters started first-pitch swinging and they killed Stratton.  If a simple-minded armchair fan like myself can pickup on something like this, why can't a pitching coach?

It's my opinion that one of the most challenging things about coaching a baseball team is managing the pitching staff.  You've got to make sure that guys are getting enough work.  You've got to make sure guys aren't getting too much work.  There are pitch counts and off-day workouts to pay attention to.  And you've got to protect those arms in long seasons, especially in the south when you can play in 90 degree heat three or four days a week.  It's easy to get tired.  It's easy to get the dead arm.  I think we're seeing some of that from MSU's staff, which is why the starting trio is having so much trouble and guys like Graveman, Mitchell and Jones are having more success - they're just better rested.  

Again, I pin this on the pitching coach.  You can't blame it all on Cohen, that's why we have a pitching coach.  I wouldn't be surprised if we were looking for a new one at season's end.  Personally, I wouldn't mind Jay Powell coming back to Starkville.

At any rate, State we be in a regional next weekend and it will be interesting to see how our pitchers respond.  We were booted on Thurs and probably won't play until Friday, so that's a full week of rest for these guys provided Cohen doesn't kill them in practice.  Hopefully the rest will help.  no comments

Written by John Washburn | 23 May 2011

First off, congrats to Jarrod Parks for the SEC batting title.  He slumped a bit late in the season but held on.  He had a great season and it was well deserved. 

MSU opens with Florida on Wednesday and it's looking like Cohen will start freshman Evan Mitchell in that game.  Mitchell looked good in his last outing against Memphis, striking out 11 in relief.  I think it's a good move.  Our starters have been struggling lately and Mitchell couldn't be any worse than what we saw from the rotation this weekend.  I have a feeling he'll be up to the task.  Luis Pollorena should be available for relief duty on Wednesday if needed.  But don't count on Kaleb Reed being available.  He threw over 100 pitches in relief on Saturday and probably won't be available until Thursday at the earliest.

Florida is expected to counter with their midweek starter, Alex Panteliodis.  Personally, I don't believe this at all.  I think the Florida coaches are bluffing and we'll likely see Johnson or Hudson Randall.

If it is Panteliodis then it could be an opportunity for State.  His last outing was 5/17 against Jacksonville where he was shelled in 2.2 innings, giving up 4 earned runs, 4 hits, 2 walks in 55 pitches.  They lost that game 11-2.  This tournament is too important to Florida to risk starting off in the loser's bracket.  Unless their starters are sore I expect one of them on Wednesday.

LSU won't be there, and that's probably good news for the rest of the SEC.  The Tigers are no doubt the hottest team in the SEC and I think they're a lock for an NCAA berth.  I'd hate to be in their bracket.  Mahtook is a beast at the plate.  I wouldn't be surprised one bit to see them back in Omaha.

Georgia is a long shot for the NCAAs.  They are currently .500 and will have to win three tournament games to qualify for the NCAA tournament (a team must finish ABOVE .500 to be eligible).  That's not likely, which opens the door for TSUN to possible sneak an at-large bid despite a weak record and a failure to qualify for Hoover.

Auburn is in a similar position.  They are 2 games over .500 and will need to win one game in the tournament to be eligible for the NCAA.  If both Auburn and Georgia fail to stay above .500 then I think TSUN will definitely get a bid.

Here's how I see it:  Vandy and SC both win on day one.  Georgia eliminates Auburn on Thurs and the Tigers fail to qualify.  Vandy beats SC in the winners bracket and after Carolina eliminates Georgia, Vandy beats them again to enter the championship game undefeated.  On the other side,  State beats Florida on day one, Bama over Arkansas.  Florida then eliminates Arky and State beats Bama with another surprise starting performance from either Graveman or Reed on Thurs.  Florida eliminates Bama, then beats State in the first game but State overcomes and wins the second game to go to the championship against Vandy.  Vandy wins the tournament championship but State plays well enough to earn an NCAA #2 seed. 

That's my prediction.

What do you think?

Will TSUN get an NCAA bid?

Will Auburn and Georgia qualify for the NCAA tourney?

How far does LSU go in the post-season?

What do you have State doing this week in Hoover?
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Written by John Washburn | 20 May 2011

Dogs win 6-5. 

Hats off to Devin Jones.  Talk about guts.  This kid has had a tough time the past few outings and has overcome some adversity.  But he comes in with his team down 5-0 and shuts down a very hot-hitting LSU team.  It was his performance that allowed the Dogs to nibble away at the lead and come back for one of the biggest wins of the season.

Once again, the Dogs showed a lot with this win.  They lose 17-1 yesterday and quickly find themselves down 5-0 tonight.  But they fought back.  That's what senior leadership does for you.

I think the key inning was the top of the 4th.  State scored with a homer in the bottom of the third and LSU immediately comes back with a scoring threat.  Man on third, sharp grounder to short and Ogden throws him out at the plate.  Next man hits a double down the line and State executes a perfect relay to throw another runner out at home.  Two outs at the plate and suddenly Dudy Noble wakes up.  Things seemed to turn around there.  The crowd comes alive and State's players just seemed to play with more of a swagger.  What a turn around.

So is State in the SEC tourney?  Everyone else seems to think TSUN has to lose one tomorrow or State has to win one more to clinch a berth.  I disagree.

Florida, SC, Vandy, Georgia and Bama are all in.  LSU is now officially out.

In the event of a multi-team tie, the first tiebreaker is the collective head to head among the tied teams.  The second tie breaker is record versus the division.  TSUN, Arky, Auburn and State are playing for the final three spots in the tourney.  The problem for TSUN is they have a terrible record against the West.  They haven't won a single series this year in the West.  Arkansas, Auburn, State all have multiple series wins in the West.  So any collective head to head scenario leaves TSUN out. 

However, should the Rebels sweep Arky then the hogs are out.  So I have yet to see any scenario that would eliminate the Dogs from the tourney.  If anyone can prove me wrong please do. 

Until then, I'm gonna go ahead and say that State has clinched a berth in the SEC tournament.  Now, win tomorrow and improve our seeding because we don't want to face Sonny Gray in game one.

Once again, let's hear it for Devin Jones.  The kid pitched a heckuva game. no comments

Written by John Washburn | 18 May 2011

I know most of you guys have already heard the story about MSU being sued by a former player.  Forrest Moore is currently somewhere in the Florida Marlins system, but at one time was a high school all-american with lots of potential.  That potential never came to fruition. 

Moore claims that this is John Cohen's fault.  He says that Cohen practiced the team too long and forced him to throw too many pitches, thus leading to an arm injury that ruined his professional baseball career.  So, Mr. Moore has filed a lawsuit against MSU and John Cohen seeking non-specific monetary damages.   Below is a summary of what Moore is claiming: 

- Cohen practiced his team more than the NCAA allows
- Cohen prevented his players from turning in accurate time cards and instead coerced his team to falsify NCAA documents in order to reflect compliance with NCAA rules
- Cohen forced Moore to pitch against his will on multiple occasions, leading to a severe arm injury
- Cohen conspired with team trainers to play down the severity of the injury 
- Cohen conspired with the associate athletic director to force Moore out of the program
- Moore was not given notice that his scholarship was being revoked and was not given the opportunity to appeal to the University per NCAA rules 

Moore feels had it not been for these things that he would have a much better professional career, so he wants MSU to pay him damages.  His attorney filed the suit the same day as MSU's opening game against TSUN and is the same attorney who is suing MSU over the cowbell beating that took place a few years back. 

Here's my take.  The thing that stands out most in this case is the conspiracy.  When you accuse someone of conspiring against you it makes you look paranoid and this is no different.  The plausability of a head coach conspiring with trainers and the associate athletic director to force a player off the team is very thin.  Why would Cohen do this?  Why not just cut him?  Wouldn't it be easier for Cohen to say that Moore simply wasn't good enough to play for MSU?  Scholarships get pulled all the time for poor performance, why would Cohen go to such great lengths against this one particular player?  Conspiracy is a rather serious charge.  I hope Moore has more evidence of it than his lone testimony. 

I would also ask Moore if he ever objected to throwing so many innings.  Actual statistics show that the year in question he only threw 45 innings.  That's not very many.  And if he was pitching a lot in practice, did he ever mention pain to his coach?  After all, it's HIS career on the line.  Are there any medical records documenting a major injury that Cohen ignored?  Not likely.  Cohen wants to win ballgames.  Ignoring or covering up this kid's injury doesn't help him win ballgames.  Again, I need to see Cohen's motive for doing such things and Mr. Moore thus far hasn't provided one, unless he simply thinks Cohen has a personal vendetta against him.

And then there are the NCAA violations.  Moore has to provide proof of these violations.  In an age when schools keep meticulous records of NCAA compliance this will be difficult to do.  All MSU has to do is provide evidence of rule compliance.  If Moore has no evidence to the contrary besides his own testimony then he has no case. 

Even more concerning about this is the attorney involved.  This is the second lawsuit he has filed against MSU, both of which are thus far thin on evidence, and the timing of this one is suspect.  Serving the MSU coach the night of their rivalry game?  Seems to me this guy is out to get MSU.  In my opinion, that calls into question the quality of the legal advice he is giving his clients.  For instance, is it wise to accuse someone of conspiracy and falsifying NCAA documents without motive and without solid evidence?  Would that not make you vulnerable to a counter suit for defamation of character? 

Lawsuits like this are generally the result of bitterness and anger.  This kid had a bright baseball future but he suffered an unfortunate injury that ruined his career.  In my opinion, he is bitter about it and is seeking blame.  It's no different than any other personal injury lawsuit.  Unless the plaintiff can produce any significant evidence of Cohen's malice, and if MSU has proper documentation that they have complied with NCAA rules, then there is nothing to worry about.  However, a counter-suit by Cohen may not be out of the question and I think it would be good to discourage such frivolous claims in the future.  Ultimately, the truth will come out.  If MSU is wrong then they should be held accountable.  But if this young man has nothing then I think MSU should pursue damages on their end.  Those that file frivolous lawsuits should be just as accountable as anyone who is guilty of negligence.

It's not crazy to think that maybe these lawsuits are nothing more than a smear campaign against MSU, with the intent to consume athletic department resources and distract from on-the-field issues.  Perhaps not.  Like I said, the truth will come out.        

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Written by John Washburn | 15 May 2011

State could have clinched a tourney berth yesterday but somehow those bums managed to salvage a game from us.  Oh well.

It was a good weekend for the Dogs, just wasn't our day yesterday.  Now, looking at the SEC standings the upcoming weekend should be awfully exciting and, for some, quite nerve-racking.

As it stands Vandy, Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia are in.  Tennessee and Kentucky are out.  LSU has managed to work itself back into a mathematical chance at making the top eight.  That means that the entire SEC west is battling for the final four slots in the SEC tourney. 

At the top there is a four team logjam.  Auburn, Arky, Bama and MSU are all tied at 13-14.  TSUN is fifth at 12-15 and LSU is last at 11-16.  Auburn has the easiest road with a 3 game series against Tennessee.  They could easily sweep that one and win the West.  Bama has the toughest task when they go to South Carolina for 3.  TSUN travels to Arky and LSU comes to our house. 

It's simple for State, win one game and we're in.  That way, if TSUN sweeps Arky will be out.  If TSUN takes 2 there will be a 3 way tie between MSU, Arky and TSUN and TSUN's 6-9 record against the West will leave them out.  For TSUN, anything less than a sweep will mean elimination.

But all State needs is one win.  Just one.  If they get swept they're out.  On the flip side, if we sweep the Tigers we are in the best position to win the West given our tiebreaker edge over Auburn (and the unlikelihood of Arky or Bama sweeping).  But I think it's important to also consider seeding.  If we're just worrying about making the field then we aren't thinking right. 

If MSU makes the tourney they should be a #2 NCAA seed given their mid-20s RPI.  This would be solidified with a win in the SEC tourney.  That means you don't want to be the 8-seed facing Sonny Gray in game one.  7 seed would be fine (against the West champ).  Even a 5 or 6 seed would be ok because we've been able to hit Hudson Randall and Palazzone.  We just need to avoid the 8 seed.  We can do that by winning at least 2 against LSU.  And for some real down-the-road thinking, if MSU wins the West and manages to at least make the SEC Championship game they will have a very real shot at a top 16 NCAA seed and maybe a host site.  Yes, it's a long shot but not out of the realm of possible. 

That's how it breaks down.  State could be the West champs and tournament #2 seed or they could be packing their bags and waiting for the NCAA field to be announced.  But at least they control their own destiny.  Take care of business and all will be well. no comments

Written by John Washburn | 12 May 2011

State wins 7-6.  What I liked most about this game is that State showed guts. 

They were up 4-2 in the 7th.  Pollorena gives up a cheap dink hit that Sheppard nearly catches.  Girodo comes in and hangs a curve to their best hitter.  Suddenly, it's 5-4 TSUN.

Three or four weeks ago State would have given up at that point.  The crowd is rocking.  The opponent is fired up.  Their pitchers have shut us down over the last four innings.  This was the moment when State would fold and Cohen would whine in the press conference about their bad luck. 

But they didn't.

They came right back the next inning.  Sheppard executes a perfect hit and run.  Brownlee drops down a perfect squeeze.  State puts heavy pressure on them with aggressive base running and they answer with three of their own.  That was Mississippi State baseball at its finest.  They wouldn't be denied.  They played those last two innings like they knew they were the better team and they refused to be beaten by those chumps.  That's MSU baseball.

Caleb Reed had his stuff, but the TSUN hitters showed some discipline laying off the slider.  He got in a jam but worked out of it. 

Yes, there were some things that came as a surprise.  I question putting Girodo in such a key situation.  I thought Reed was coming in once Pollorena was chased.  Girodo was not the man you want in that situation and it hurt.  I question the 0-2 pitch out in the ninth.  That runner on first meant nothing, don't give Yarbrough an extra ball. 

But who cares.  State won.  And TSUN has yet to beat MSU in men's sports this year.  That's sweet.

By the way, Parks got robbed.  What the TSUN scorekeeper did to him was criminal.  We need to file that one away and remember it. no comments

Written by John Washburn | 11 May 2011

mainieriI know the big series this weekend is against TSUN, but I thought I'd throw this out for discussion.  Is Paul Mainieri on the hot seat at LSU?

Detractors will say that Mainieri is only 72-70 in SEC play in his 5 seasons with LSU.  He has finished 5th in the SEC West twice, and seems headed for another possible 5th or 6th place finish this year.  His teams have struggled a bit in the regular season and only seem to turn it on in the post-season.  But eventually, that catches up to you.  You have to perform in the regular season to put yourself in the best position come tournament time.  And this is LSU, a team that should never have to struggle to make the postseason. 

Supporters will say "so what" about his regular season performance.  Under Mainieri, the Tigers have won a National Championship, an SEC regular season championships, and the last three SEC tournament championships (despite last year's 5th place division finish).  Mainieri thrives in the post-season and as long as he continues to do that the Tigers should be happy.

So which is it? 

Personally, I think LSU fans will grow weary of mediocre performance in the SEC.  If Mainieri fails to make the postseason this year there will be some serious grumbling in Baton Rouge.  Like State, LSU is a traditional SEC baseball powerhouse and their fans won't be happy with 5th or 6th place in the division.  He will likely be back next year with little room for error. 

I wouldn't be surprised to see many Tiger fans calling for his job after this season. 

And if he does go, look for LSU to make a serious run at Mike Bianco.

State vs TSUN tomorrow on the U.  I'd love to see State sweep all three men's sports. no comments

Written by John Washburn | 09 May 2011

Well I guess it all finally came together.  MSU played solid in all 3 ballgames and even though it wasn't perfect they overcame a few mistakes and a few good plays by Tennessee and left Knoxville with their second SEC sweep this year.

The Dogs scored 26 runs in the series and it could've been worse.  Several scoring opportunities were missed because the Vols made some good plays on some well hit balls.  State seemed to be zeroed in at the plate and this all started late in game three against Bama.  Since then, MSU has won 5 straight, three of those wins included double-digit hits.  It appears as though MSU may be warming up just when they need to the most.

Jarrod Parks continues to have an amazing season.  He leads the SEC by a wide margin in hitting with a .419 average, as well as on base percentage at .554.  In addition, he is slugging at .574.  I think it's safe to say he is the most dangerous hitter in the SEC and is showing no signs of cooling off.  He went six for eleven on the weekend.  His current hitting streak stands at 20 games.  If he is to make a run at Rex Buckner's school record of 31 consecutive the Dogs would have to make the post-season, which is much more possible after this weekend. 

I don't know what Nick Vickerson has been eating lately, but Cohen needs to feed it to the whole team.  This guy exploded this weekend with 7 RBIs (5 on Friday), and a five for eleven series.  If he continues this tear it's gonna mean more pitches for Parks to hit in front of him.

And what about Nick Routt?  He pitched well, allowing only 2 ER, but more importantly he threw 124 pitches, a season high.  Yes, that was 124 pitches in six innings of work, but it's still a big deal for State fans.  If this guy gets back to form State will be tough in the post-season.

Chris Stratton deserves a nod as well.  He went 5 2/3 innings, striking out 9 and allowing only 2 ER.  Does he feel more comfortable on Sunday?  Who cares?  If Stratton does this the next two Sundays it will be hard for TSUN and LSU to win either series.

Unfortunately, the SEC West rose to the occasion this weekend.  Arkansas took 2 of 3 from Florida.  Auburn took 2 of 3 from Georgia.  And somehow TSUN took 2 from South Carolina.  State made up a game on these guys but still has work to do. 

And don't forget about LSU.  They have surged a bit and still have an outside shot at the SEC Tournament.  But even if they don't make the tourney, the Tigers may still get an at-large NCAA berth because of some impressive pre-conference wins, in particular their 3 game sweep of Cal Fullerton. 

Two weekends to go.  The West is completely up for grabs.

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Written by John Washburn | 05 May 2011

Okay, maybe it's way too early for a preseason Top 25 but we MSU fans don't get many chances to be excited about football when it's still only May.  There are actually a lot of different preseason polls already out and instead of posting them all I came across someone who had already put together a compilation of about a dozen different polls.  And this is what it looks like:

1. Oklahoma
2. Alabama
3. Oregon
4. LSU
5. Stanford
6. Oklahoma State
7. Boise State
8. Ohio State
9. Texas A&M
10. Florida State
11. Wisconsin
12. Arkansas
13. Michigan State
14. Auburn
15. South Carolina
16. Nebraska
17. TCU
18. Notre Dame
19. Missouri
20. Mississippi State
21. Virginia Tech
22. Georgia
23. Arizona State
24. Florida
25. Penn State

That's 8 SEC teams in the consolidated Top 25.  Five SEC West teams (who's missing?).

State also has to play 6 of those teams.  We're gonna have a good team, but it's gonna be a tough schedule.

**Note:  Garcia has been suspended indefinitely from South Carolina.  Don't know how that will affect their ranking but it seems they won't be nearly as good without him.

Your thoughts on the rankings?  Are they about right?  What would you change?

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