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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.

Think it will stick? no comments

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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Written by John Washburn | 16 April 2011

New rules from the NCAA rules committee:

- When the defense commits a penalty in the last minute of a half the offense will have the option to run 10 seconds off the clock
- Intentional grounding will be defined as no receiver within the area, rather than the current rule that the receiver must have a reasonable opportunity to catch the ball

- Coaches can have video monitors in the booth with them, but only for live action, not for slow motion replay
- Blocking fouls will be called for blocking below the waist on any player beyond 7 yds of the line of scrimmage who block from behind or block towards the center of the field. 

- 5 yd penalty will be assessed on the defense if 3 or more players attempt to overwhelm a blocking offensive player during kicks
- Taunting that occurs BEFORE a touchdown will negate the touchdown and a 15 yd penalty will be assessed.

Here's the article from ESPN for details.

I'm fine with the 10 second runoff and the intentional grounding rule.  Intentional grounding is always completely subjective but at least this takes away some of the guess work for refs.

The video monitors are good, especially if you're going to have a replay rule.  The blocking below the waist penalty can be confusing and I think you'll see this assessed a good bit early on because players will struggle with knowing when it's OK or not OK to go low.  But eventually they'll get it and hopefully it will cut down on serious knee injuries.  These low blocks seem to be more common now with these small, quick slot receivers being asked to block bigger, faster defensive players.  I think the rule is necessary.

Penalizing a team for trying to overwhelm an offensive blocker seems counter to the game.  I don't think this was necessary.  Isn't the object of the game to overpower or overwhelm your opponent in order to score more points.  This one wasn't necessary.

Finally, the taunting rule.  I think it's ridiculous.  Don't get me wrong, I hate taunting.  It looks childish, thuggish and cheap and it reflects poorly on the player and his coach.  Ideally, it's an issue to be handled within the team.  A good coach would not tolerate it and this would be reflected in how his players behaved on the field.  But, obviously, there are bad coaches out there who don't care.  So, I understand the need for the NCAA to enact some form of punishment.  But is it necessary to punish the entire team because one player acts like a fool?  No.

This rule can and will cost some team a ballgame.  Not only do they lose the points from the touchdown, but they have a 15yd penalty tacked on as well.  That's huge.  We've already seen games lost because of taunting when a team has to kickoff 15 yds further back, so there's no doubt that actually taking points away will decide more than a few outcomes.  Come on!

There is a better way of doing this.  How about suspending the player for the next offensive series, or for one full quarter?  Heck, I'd be okay with ejecting him from the game, or maybe issue a warning then eject from the game (similar to basketball's technical foul rule).  Why not have a technical foul/penalty rule in college football?  Points are just too hard to come by in football for the officials to take them off the board because a player behaves like an idiot.  The idea is to teach the student-athlete to control himself, not to punish an entire team and potentially cost them a ballgame. 

Bad call by the NCAA.
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Written by John Washburn | 14 April 2011

roast_pigThis weekend it's #18 Arkansas at their place.  The Razorbacks are 6-6 in the league, in sole position of second place in the west and are heating up.  They just completed a sweep of LSU last weekend and are starting to show lots of balance and solid fundamental play to go with some very good pitching.  On top of that, it's always tough to go to Fayetteville and win no matter the circumstance.  It is a tough home field advantage and their 16-3 home record testifies to it.   

The Hogs are hitting a respectable .274 as a team with a 3.02 team ERA.  Not bad at the college level.  If you only give up 3 runs a game you're doing something, and you're gonna win a lot of ballgames.  They have a little pop, 2 players have 5 HR each, and lately they seem to be swinging the bats well.  And they LOVE to run.  They have 69 stolen bases in 32 games, so Thigpen better be ready to throw and the pitchers need to hold those guys on base. 

They're led by Jr second baseman Bo Bigham who's riding a 12 game hitting streak and carries a .311 batting average.  Helping him out is their slugging freshman first baseman Dominic Ficocielli who's hitting .336.  These two will be the key outs in the batting order.   In the field they're good but not great.  They've committed 45 errors this year and it has hurt them at times.   

On the mound is where they shine.  DJ Baxendale is the staff ace and he'll go probably Friday (maybe Saturday, the Hogs have mixed up their rotation a time or two).  He is followed by Brandon Moore and then probably Randall Fant on Sunday.  They have held opponents to a .229 average, have only allowed 11 homeruns and they are good at getting the strikeout.  The knock is that they have a tendency to run deep into the count and throw a lot of pitches, putting some pressure on the bullpen. 

So, it seems to me that when you look at these teams on paper they're almost identical.  Respectable at the plate but not stellar, solid pitching, average to good defense.  These are two very evenly matched teams.  The problem is the Hogs are hot right now, the Dogs aren't.  But, here's the deal, after this weekend State has South Carolina and Alabama.  They could very well get 4 or 5 losses in those two series, which makes this weekend is crucial for State's post-season hopes.  Drop 2 or 3 here and the season could turn disastrous in a hurry.  I think we'll look back at this weekend and realize this is when the season turned for better or for worse.  They gotta get at least 2 here.  They've got to.   

Cohen has mixed up the rotation and Stratton will go tomorrow, Routt on Saturday with Sunday to be determined.  That doesn't matter.  The starting pitching hasn't been the problem, and we all know what has.  So, I'm calling out the seniors.  State has struggled at the plate, especially in key situations with runners in scoring position.  As a result, they have some one or two or three run losses that are hard to stomach.  They've been able to set the table, but nobody is bringing home the groceries.  That's why I'm calling on the seniors to step up.  MSU has 7 senior position players, all of whom contribute in different areas.  This means that in those key situations there's a good chance one of those seniors will be at the plate.  Those are the guys who have to deliver.  They should be accustomed to the pressure.  They should know what to expect.  They should be able to deliver.  It's up to them if State gets a postseason birth this year.  If the season ends in disappointment, they'll have only themselves to blame.  So it starts this weekend.  Take care of business in Arky and things will be looking good.   

Ogden, Parks, Shepherd, Vickerson, Freeman, Thigpen, Collins, you guys have to make it happen.  Bulldog nation is pulling for you and I know Cohen has shown you guys the schedule and preached the importance of this series.  You gotta get it done.   Go Dawgs!

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