By JOEL COLEMAN
Mississippi State already had compiled a long list of accomplishments in the school’s 126 seasons of baseball. Now, the Bulldogs can add one more.
On Monday, MSU was selected as the No. 6 national seed for the upcoming NCAA Baseball Tournament. It’s the first time in program history that the Bulldogs have ever been a national seed.
“I think it’s a great honor for our club,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “But like I’ve said many times, things like winning the Southeastern Conference is a great honor, but you have about two minutes to take that in and say, ’Now we’ve got to get ready for the SEC Tournament.’ We’ve been named a national seed, which is a great honor. Now we’ve got to get ready to play well against a very, very good field (in the Starkville Regional). You just don’t have time to sit back and look at the historical things that are happening. You spend all your time trying to prepare for what’s going to happen next.”
As a national seed, MSU now has the chance to get all the way to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, without ever having to leave Starkville. The first step in that process comes this weekend when the Bulldogs welcome Cal State Fullerton, Louisiana Tech and Southeast Missouri to Dudy Noble Field for the Starkville Regional.
If State can survive the double-elimination tournament, MSU would host a super regional on their home turf next weekend.
The prospects of it all are exciting, but Cohen is taking nothing for granted as his club prepares for what is to come. MSU’s eighth-year leader knows from his own playing days with the Bulldogs things can, and sometimes do, fall apart.
“I can still reflect, by the second, when we lost to North Carolina in (the 1989 South Regional in Starkville),” Cohen said. “I thought we had, far and away, the best team in the country. That was a bad feeling in front of our own fans here in 1989. We were fortunate enough the next year to go to Omaha, but it sticks with you.”
Cohen hopes his current team doesn’t have to suffer similar disappointment. With all the Bulldogs have done to this point in the year, whether it was winning the school’s first SEC regular season title in 27 years or being named a national seed for the first time, State is searching for more.
The Bulldogs’ success has earned them perhaps an easier pathway to get to where they want to be as they enjoy all the comforts of home for their postseason run. Now, Cohen said it’s all on his club to take advantage of the circumstances.
“Right now, we want our kids to stay hydrated, we want them to be healthy, we want them to put the right things in their bodies, we want them to be rested and we want them to play at their best,” Cohen said. “If our kids are playing at their best, that’s all I want. That’s all I can ask for because I think we have a special group. We’ve just got to find that and find what our best is.”