By JOEL COLEMAN
Prior to Saturday, four times Mississippi State had gone into the third game of a Southeastern Conference weekend series with the opportunity to finish off a sweep. All four times, the Bulldogs were turned away.
“I wouldn’t say we talked about that a lot, but we all kind of knew in the back of our minds that we needed to sweep a series and get the job done,” MSU pitcher Daniel Brown said.
For Brown and the Bulldogs, this past weekend finally saw the maroon and white brooms get broken out. After winning the first two contests of a three-game set on Thursday and Friday against Missouri by scores of 8-2 and 4-3, State polished off the sweep with a 3-1 victory on Saturday.
After coming close to perfect weekends so many times before, finally the Bulldogs were able to finish the job. Unlike against Vanderbilt, Georgia, Ole Miss and LSU, this time, there was no third-game disappointment.
“This just showed a lot about our team and how we’re progressing as the season goes on,” Bulldogs third baseman Gavin Collins said. “We’re clearly getting better and cleaning up the things that we’ve done wrong. To get that sweep, it shows what we’ve been working so hard for.”
The three wins served as yet another feather in MSU’s cap. Now at 33-14-1 overall this season and 15-9 in SEC play, the Bulldogs were already solidly in the NCAA Tournament picture even before the sweep. In fact, in its latest projections released last week, D1Baseball has MSU as one of eight national seeds for postseason play, meaning the Bulldogs would be in line to host both a regional and super regional in Starkville as long as State keeps winning.
Considering that, it should come as no surprise that MSU head coach John Cohen viewed his team’s weekend sweep on a much broader scale than just one singular achievement.
“It’s not necessarily just a sweep, it’s an SEC win,” Cohen said. “You just keep putting stuff on your resume. Every one of these wins pads your resume. All these kids know what is at stake in terms of postseason and the regular season. We have goals as a group and most of those goals are still intact. There aren’t a lot of teams that can still say that, but this group can and they want to take care of those goals.”
Just seven games now remain in the regular season for the Bulldogs before postseason baseball commences. That means State’s opportunities to fine-tune its game are becoming fewer in number. More than anything else, Collins believed the three wins over Missouri proved MSU is already getting sharper and more focused as the games start to mean more.
“We looked at (Saturday) like this game was the most important game that we’re going to play all year,” Collins said. “That’s how we’re going to play all of them for the rest of the year. I think that showed all weekend.”
Yet even as the Bulldogs’ eyes start to shift towards the big moments to come, it was easy to see on Saturday that MSU was pleased to finally sweep away SEC opposition after coming so close so many times before.
“I think it means a lot,” Brown said. “We just keep building up momentum each week headed towards the postseason. It just finally felt good to get all three for once.”