Mississippi State’s run to CWS defies logic

Published 7:55 am Thursday, June 14, 2018

Mississippi State should not be in the College World Series.

Not in a derogatory way, mind you. The Bulldogs won a regional and super regional, survived a number of thrilling elimination games and clearly earned their spot in the final stage of the NCAA Tournament that begins Saturday.

This team, rather, doesn’t belong in Omaha because their route to get there defies all common logic.
If these Bulldogs were a normal team, they’d have mailed it in on Feb. 20, when they were coming off a three-game opening weekend sweep at Southern Miss and found out their head coach had resigned for murky personal reasons that have yet to be explained publicly.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

A normal team would have certainly written itself off on April 1, when it reached the halfway point of the season with a 14-15 record.

None of that fazed these Bulldogs. They won series over national seeds Ole Miss, Arkansas and Florida — the latter two will join them in the College World Series — to squeak into the NCAA Tournament. Once there, they survived a 20-10 drubbing in their first game and took advantage of an all-time blunder by Florida State coaching legend Mike Martin to stay alive.

Two walk-off home runs, an extra-inning rally and a crate of rally bananas later, and here we are. Mississippi State is back in Omaha for the first time in five years to cap a season that appeared dead and buried at least a half-dozen times.

Mississippi State is good, but hardly the most talented team in the CWS field or even in school history. It’s got some good hitters, but the pitching staff is thin and lacks a true ace. Seven of its players were selected in the Major League Baseball draft, only two in the first 20 rounds.

What the Bulldogs seem to have, however, is a magic and an aura that’s hard to define. You know it when you see it. This is a team that seems to do its best work in the darkest hours, that finds a way to win just when everyone is ready to write them off. Those are the teams that are the most fun to watch. When expectations are low and results are high, every victory is like finding money on the sidewalk.

This tends to be the time when plucky teams like this are crushed into dust by the true heavyweights. However, after seeing the way they’ve navigated a dozen seemingly insurmountable roadblocks already, it’d be foolish to write off the Bulldogs until the last out is recorded.

Ernest Bowker is the sports editor of The Vicksburg Post. He can be reached at ernest.bowker@vicksburgpost.com

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

email author More by Ernest