Written by John Washburn | 02 May 2011

The good news (and it's a stretch to find some) about this weekend's series is that State remains just 2 games out of first in the SEC West.  Granted, that's mainly because the West is getting brutalized by the East, but it's still 2 games nonetheless.  During Cohen's playing days it was reversed and the West was the power division.  Now, no team in that division has a winning conference record.  It's crazy, but at least MSU has a shot.  They have nine left to play and if they win six of those nine they are likely in the SEC tourney and the NCAA field.  Win seven or eight and the West title could be theirs.    

The bad news is that State could have and should have swept this series.  Had they done so, the Dogs would be tied for first in the West and sitting pretty with those nine remaining games.  It was a golden opportunity to make up some ground on the West field and they blew it.  Bottom line.

Now, I'm not gonna start pounding Cohen but I do have a few criticisms.  First, I get what he's saying.  The Dogs have been snakebit this year and it's really hard to describe the tough luck.  They are 8-13 in the conference but could easily be 13-8 if the ball bounces their way more often than not.  Yes, they've been stinging the ball and forcing the other teams to make some outstanding plays.  But those plays were made.  And the other teams are getting the hits when they need them. 

When they force us to make a spectacular play it usually doesn't happen.  And we've shot ourselves in the foot more than once.  Yes, opponents have miraculously found a power stroke when none was there before, bashing extra-base hits they don't typically bash.  But doesn't pitching have something to do with that? 

So enough of the belly-aching.  If the coach gets down then the team isn't going to respond very well.  Cohen should know better.  Yes, it's frustrating, but don't show it in the post-game press conference.  Suck it up and move on. 

I certainly don't know what Cohen knows about baseball, but I do know that it's hard for any pitcher to throw in both games of a double-header.  He's not going to have his best stuff.  I also know that when you get a lead-off double it's a bad idea to try to steal third.  Why even try it?  Baseball scripture says never make the first or third out of an inning at third base.  Yet that's what we did.   I understand that the ump blew a call in game one on a dropped popup that allowed Bama to take the lead.  But it was a popup, and it should have been caught.  Do that and you don't give the ump a chance to screw you.   

But enough of that.  State showed heart in game 3 with a come-from-behind win.  That's encouraging.  They have 3 on the road against Tennessee and, needless to say, anything less than 2 wins will be hard to overcome.   I'm not ready to call for Cohen's job just yet.  He has turned the program around.  He is heading in the right direction.  Am I happy with the progress so far?  Yes.  Am I satisfied?  No.  This is MSU baseball and postseason appearances should be a given.  We have a long way to go to that point.  We're losing a lot of seniors this year so Cohen will have to continue showing progress with a very young team next year.  If he fails at that, and next year becomes a semi-"rebuild", then he's gonna have a tough time with a State fan base that isn't used to baseball hardship, myself included. 

On a lighter note, congrats to Pernell, KJ, Derek and Chris.  Four draft picks, two of those were Mullen recruits out of JUCO.  Our best draft class in a decade.  That says a lot.

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Written by John Washburn | 29 April 2011

Congrats to Derek Sherrod.  Our star Tackle was drafted last in night in the first roung, 32nd pick overall, by the Green Bay Packers.  I know he'll make us all proud, he already has in so many ways.  A class act and a star both on the field and in the classroom.  Good for you, Derek.  You certainly deserve it. 

Now, on to Bama.  The Tide rolls in this weeked licking some serious wounds.  They have dropped 9 of their last 10 conference games and fallen from first to fourth in the SEC West, just one game ahead of State for the 8th and final spot in the SEC tourney. 

At the plate they are average at best.  They come in with a team avg of .273 and only 12 HR.  But their best hitter, Jared Reaves, has been on a tear.  He's currently at .363 but in the last 10 games he is 18 for 35 with a slugging percentage over .600.  He's hot.  Obviously, it will be important to keep guys hitting in front of him off base.   

They have a decent pitching staff which appears to be anchored by a good and deep bullpen.  This will certainly come into play with the double header on Saturday.  Their rotation is led by senior RH Nathan Kilcrease, and then after him they become a bit more average.  The team ERA is 3.57, a shade better than State's, and opponents are hitting .273 against them.   

Earlier this week they lit up Southern Miss for 15 hits and 7 runs, so the Tide may be down a bit but they aren't out. 

This is a big series and MSU has to be ready to play. 

And then there are the intangibles.  Tuscaloosa is dealing with a tragic disaster, no doubt some of the Bama players have been affected by it personally.  It's impossible to know how they will respond.  Baseball is not an emotional game so emotions can work against you just as easily as they can help.  If anything, maybe getting out there on the field and having a little fun can help with the healing process.  Our hearts are certainly with the people in Tuscaloosa and all over the southeast.   

One thing's for sure, both teams need this series badly. 

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Written by John Washburn | 27 April 2011

aerial_davis_wadeI love it and can't wait.  Awesome upgrade to the outside facade and the horseshoe bowl-in is long overdue.  Gonna get mighty loud down there. no comments

Written by John Washburn | 25 April 2011

Well, it's Monday.  I hope everyone enjoyed their Easter weekend.  Here are a few random items to start off the week.

MSU drops 2 of 3 to South Carolina.  It could've been worse, but it could've been better.  South Carolina gave us some opportunities and we couldn't capitalize.  State continues to get men on base, but seems to be searching for someone to drive them in.  That will be the story of the season if they fail to make the postseason.  But still, MSU is only 2 games back in the SEC West with a big series coming up against Bama.  Two wins is a must.  Fail to do that and I think we'll start talking about football. 

Jonathan Ogden is a bit of a puzzle.  At times he looks brilliant, making plays that don't seem possible.  Then he'll boot a routine grounder hit right at him.  He leads the SEC in errors and leads the team in homeruns.  Tough to figure out, sorta like the MSU team as a whole.

MSU tennis falls short.  They were eliminated by eventual champs Florida in the quarterfinals but still had a great season.  And, yes, they whipped TSUN last weekend.

Jarrod Parks continues his quest for the SEC batting title.  He's currently hitting .409, that's seven points higher than when he entered the weekend.  The guy is on a roll and just may bring home the batting title for the Bulldogs.  Does anyone know the last Bulldog to win the SEC batting crown?  I'm gonna take a wild guess and say Travis Chapman.  Someone educate me.

Cohen is looking for a Sunday starter.  Here's my opinion for what it's worth...Kendall Graveman.  He's looked good in midweek games and has looked great in the past two conference weekends.  Give him a shot, we can't do much worse.

Pollorena and Reed.  Wow!  On Saturday they shut down the best hitting team in the SEC to secure MSU's lone win in the series.  And they looked stellar doing it.  If it wasn't for Parks' boot on a tough hop these two would have finished the game with zero runs allowed.  Very impressive.  I wouldn't be surprised to see Pollorena in a starting role later this year or next.

SEC WEST vs Florida, Vandy, South Carolina.  Interesting stat lifted from the C-L, these three teams are 23-4 against the SEC West this year and 3 of those 4 losses come at the hands of MSU.  That tells me State is better than their record shows and gives reason for optimism with 12 conference games remaining.

Congrats to Alabama's women's gymnastics team.  National champions.  More SEC dominance.
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Written by John Washburn | 22 April 2011

crossLet every man and woman count himself immortal.  Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection.  Let him say not merely, "Christ is risen," but "I shall rise."  ~Phillips Brooks

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Written by John Washburn | 21 April 2011

gamecockThis weekend is State's biggest challenge of the second half.  The Gamecocks are defending national champs and currently #2 in the nation.  Next to Florida, this is the toughest team the Dog's will play.  MSU is currently 6-9, have lost 7 or their last 9 SEC games and are in bad need of a series win in the conference.  The good news, State is fresh off a win over TSUN to reclaim the Governor's Cup and outfielder Bird Brownlee is back after serving his one game suspension for showing the Arkansas fans his middle finger.

The Gamecocks sport a .287 team batting avg led by Scott Wingo (.330, 7 doubles, .469 ob%) and slugger Christian Walker (.329, 7 HR, .571 slugging%).  The have power top to bottom with 32 HRs in 36 games and four different players hitting better than .300. 

Their pitching staff has been nothing short of dominant.  Their staff ERA is 2.55 with an opponents batting avg of Ace Michael Roth (8-1, 1.24 ERA) has been overpowering, with 62 Ks in 65 innings and has held opponents to an anemic .209 batting avg.  If the Dogs manage to chase the starters it won't get much easier as the Gamecocks have an equally impressive bullpen.  John Taylor has pitched 34 innings in 22 appearances and only allowed 2 runs while striking out 37.  And Matt Price has been a shut-down closer with 11 saves, and 37 Ks in 26 innings.

It's gonna be quite a challenge, but honestly this is not the weekend State begins its run.  Not to be pessimistic but we are overmatched.  MSU is still not playing their best baseball so I think one win in three would be a good start for the rest of the season.  Then again, it IS Dudy Noble and you never know what the Dogs can do there.  They've proven they can rough up the big ace by chasing Hudson Randall early, perhaps Roth may be in for a similar fate.  Stratton had a solid game last weekend and State's bullpen continues to deliver. 

They showed better clutch-hitting last weekend and if this continues they may be able to give the Gamecocks more than the defending champs expect.  It seems every weekend there is one or two plays that go the other way and ends up costing us a series.  Baseball is an odd game, and if those plays start bouncing our way then we could very well take two of three and give SC their first series loss in the conference.

Either way, I see State being competitive.  I don't think there will be a blowout this weekend and one or two of these games may come down to whose bullpen pitches best.  The way our Pen has been pitching I wouldn't mind the game being in their hands.

How is it gonna go this weekend?

Which Bulldog starter delivers the best performance against the champs?  no comments

Written by John Washburn | 19 April 2011

governorWe're never losing to this team again.

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Written by John Washburn | 19 April 2011

When I think of the Mayor's Cup (or Governor's Cup, whatever it's called), one game sticks in my mind.  In 1998, Pat McMahon's first year as head coach I remember him basically making statements that the Mayor's Cup was important and he wanted to win it, that the idea of using the 4th or 5th starter was not the best way to win.  So, he seemed intent to use the ace if need be. 

During the game, I remember somewhere in the middle innings hearing some loud "pops" coming from the bullpen area, so I went to check it out and found Matt Ginter warming up.  It's impressive to watch someone who throws that hard, especially when you can stand close enough to hear the ball "buzz" on its way to the catcher's mitt.  And Ginter could bring it.  It was clear he had his stuff and wasn't feeling any soreness from the weekend before.   

So McMahon puts him in and TSUN was obviously overpowered.  This was well before TSUN became even somewhat competitive in baseball.  Ginter was throwing smoke and the TSUN hitters were nowhere near it.  I think he ended up fanning 5 or 6 in the two innings he pitched.  It was nasty.  McMahon's point was obvious:  TSUN can hang with us when we're throwing our midweek guys, so here's a taste of our full punch.  State won the game and eventually made it back to Omaha that year.  Ginter would become a first round pick and have a decent pro career.  Good memories.  

Funny how certain things stick out.  It's time we got back to that kind of in-state dominance.

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Written by John Washburn | 18 April 2011

For those who haven't yet heard, Stansbury continues to show his recruiting chops.  MSU picked up a 2012 commitment from 4-start Montgomery, Alabama 2 guard Craig Sword.  He is rated by rivals as the #11 overall shooting guard nationwide.  Not bad. 

Sounds great for now, but Sword did say he will take his visits to other schools.  So this verbal still have to be considered soft, but good news nonetheless.  MSU looks to be reloading for the next 3-4 years.  If Stans could get his teams to gel and play together for one full season we could see some great things happen. 

Nonetheless, I won't get excited til I see his name on the back of an MSU jersey.

In baseball news, it was announced yesterday the Brent Brownlee has been suspended by the team for an inappropriate gesture at the Arkansas fans immediately after State won yesterday.  We don't yet know the extent of the suspension but Brownlee will certainly miss tomorrow's Mayor's Trophy game against TSUN and will likely miss part or all of the South Carolina series this weekend.  If you ask me, I say he sits tomorrow night but plays Friday.  Just my opinion. 

Yes, it was classless.  Yes, Brownlee is a junior and knows better.  Yes, he embarrassed the team and the University.  But I think one game is enough.  It's a shame too because Brownlee looked good this weekend.  Seems to be getting back to pre-injury form and made some good defensive plays.

So, I'm gonna jump out there and be the first to crown him with his new nickname..."Bird" Brownlee.

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Written by John Washburn | 17 April 2011

We've reached the halfway mark and before I break down the standings and schedules I have a gripe.  I really don't like the way the SEC baseball schedule is set up.  There really is no logical reason why each team doesn't play all eleven conference opponents.  I understand that 11 series would mean uneven home and away games, but you can alternate divisions each year.  One year the West teams will play 6 away series, the next year they get 6 home series.  That would be more fair than what we currently see, which is an unbalanced schedule that puts certain teams at a decided disadvantage. 

And the team with the major disadvantage this year is State.  They have to skip Kentucky, the worst team in the SEC.  Meanwhile, the teams they will be competing with to make the SEC tournament will be fellow West rivals that won't have to play the powerhouses like Florida, Vandy and South Carolina.  This could mean as much as a 3 game swing in the standings which could easily be the difference between making the tournament and spending late May at home.  The schedule needs to be changed. 

Now, on to the midseason breakdown.  State salvaged one of three this weekend and while they needed two they at least set themselves up for a postseason chance.  They are 3 games under .500 in the conference.  In fairness, the first half schedule was brutal.  Of the 5 top SEC teams in the standings, State played four of them.  Three of those were on the road.  The only non-top 5 team was Auburn, and State swept them, a good indication that they are better than their record shows.  So we have reason to be optimistic.  Finishing that stretch at 6-9 isn't bad. 

However, if the season ended now, State would miss the SEC tournament.  So they have some work to do. 

Right now there are four teams that will be in barring a meltdown:  SC, Vandy, Florida and Georgia.  There are 3 teams that are pretty much done:  Kentucky, Tennessee, and (believe it or not) LSU.  That leaves 5 teams fighting it out for 4 tourney spots.  State is only one game behind Auburn for the last spot, and they own the tie-breaker in head-to-head competition.   Arkansas is playing hot right now but I honestly don't think they're as good as their record shows.  Alabama lost 2 of 3 to Tennessee and may be slumping.  TSUN swept Kentucky but could have easily lost 2 of 3.  They're 8-7 now but aren't playing like an above-.500 team.  Two games separate 5 teams in the West.  It is wide open.   

Keep in mind the West champ will be the 2 seed in the tourney, and with State just 2 games out of first in the West they could find themselves as high as the 2 seed, or out of the dance altogether.   Last year, LSU was the 8 seed with a 14-16 record.  That means State would have to win 8 of their last 15 SEC games to be in the same position.  They have SC and Bama up next, both at home.  Then it's at Tennessee, at TSUN and back home for LSU.  That's nine of their last 15 at home.  Eight wins in that stretch is more than possible, especially with State's younger pitchers really starting to gel.  They could get eight wins against TSUN, LSU and Tennessee. 

Auburn has TSUN, SC, Georgia, Bama and Tennessee.  Their target would be winning 7 of those, not out of the question.  But remember, if they win 7 and State wins 8, the Dogs have the tiebreaker.   

TSUN still has Auburn, Florida, SC, State and Arky left.  That may be a tough stretch to win 6 games (enough to put them at 14-16).  Obviously, the key series will be State, which is gonna be played in Oxford.  They have by far the most difficult second half schedule. 

Bama has lost 7 of their last 10 games and has Florida, State, LSU, Auburn and SC remaining.  They're no lock for the postseason.   

Arky has Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, SC and TSUN.  There's a nine game stretch against the top 4 in the SEC.  They also have some work to do. 

So it's shaping up to be a heck of a race in the West.  State is fifth right now after the toughest of schedules and play their next 6 at home.  This race could flip flop several times before it's finally set.  State has the most work to do but has the easiest schedule.  TSUN has the toughest.  Bama is struggling.  It's anyone's guess right now who will be in and who will be out.  I think State is growing and each weekend they're just one play away from winning two or three.  I think they turn it around and, yes, I still think they make the tournament. 

So how about it?  Does MSU get in?  Who gets left out?

Does LSU come storming back or are they done?

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