The Championship Sprint (via AD Stricklin's Twitter)
I hope you all had fantastic Memorial Day weekends. If you were like (or are) many people on my Facebook timeline, you had a great weekend at a beach somewhere, complete with Instagram photos to prove said great time took place. There are others of you who traveled to Hoover this past weekend, and like me were rewarded with seeing our Dogs cap off a remarkable 6-day run with another SEC Tournament Championship. Now the Dogs have been dealt their NCAA Tournament cards, and we have much to discuss to get your caught up and ready for the week(end) ahead. Here's today's news and notes:
SEC Tournament Wrap Up
- First off, congratulations go out to John Cohen and the MSU baseball team. When Tuesday started, many of us thought it would be a long shot for State to win it, but win it they did, with grit, determination, and one hell of a pitching staff performance. Sure the offense deserves credit for scoring enough runs to ensure MSU victory in all but one game, but the pitching staff - led by, well, no one specifically - deserves a TON of credit for holding some of the SEC's best hitters and offenses at bay to give State a chance to win each day of the tournament.
- Our buddy PodKATT, the site manager for our brother blog - LSU's And The Valley Shook - was at the tournament all week long, and took some great pictures. Check out all of his work here.
- If you missed it, Braden and myself both were in the house Sunday to watch State win the championship, and we both got great video of the final out and fan reaction. Check them each out at the links in the first sentence of this bullet.
- While we won 8 of 9 in a week's time and earned a No. 2 seed in Tallahassee, Kentucky, whom State defeated 4 out of 5 tries in the last week, slipped - not only from an SEC regular season title - but also from hosting a regional, as they were sent to the West Lafayette regional hosted by Purdue. Have to think the big blue nation baseball fans aren't the biggest fans of John Cohen and MSU right now.
- Adam Frazier was named tournament MVP and rightfully so after the week he had, but to me the unsung hero of this magical week and championship goes to RSFr. Ross Mitchell. Mitchell pitched against Arkansas (1.2 IP, 3H, 0R, 1K), Kentucky (2IP, 0H, 0R, 2K's), LSU (1IP, 0H, 0R, 1K), and of course his outstanding performance against Vanderbilt (5IP, 5H, 0R, 3K's). Ross won't overwhelm anyone with his stuff, but he effort and performance throughout the tournament was absolutely vital to our success. I knew if we were going to have a chance Sunday one of the young pitchers, whether it be Woodruff, Mitchell or whomever, would have to step up, and Ross certainly did. Big players step up in big games, and Ross Mitchell, you are the biggest of players in my eyes after this past week. Kudos to you.
- Was there any more of a fitting way to wrap up the win Sunday than for Chris Stratton - who has embodied the turnaround this pitching staff has executed this season - to finish out the game? We have most likely seen Chris Stratton for the final time in maroon and white at the SEC Tournament, and we certainly thank him for all he has given us in his career, and especially this year (and last week).
- As you probably know by now, MSU received a No. 2 seed to participate in the Florida State regional in Tallahassee, Florida. Joining the Bulldogs and Seminoles (No. 1 seed, No. 3 national overall seed) are No. 3 seed Samford and No. 4 seed UAB. UAB, as you may know, just wrapped up a Conference USA Tournament Championship down the road in Pearl at Trustmark Park.
- Here's the full bracket for this year's field of 64.
- At the same time that State kicked off its championship game with Vandy Sunday, the NCAA announced its 2012 regional host sites, and Starkville wasn't on that list. I still think that's fair, State did finish outstanding this season but the overall body of work may have been a bit lacking. But then I looked at a team that DID receive a regional host spot, Miami (Fl), and I was really baffled. 36-21 overall, did not win their conference championship (did make championship game), was swept by Virginia, Florida State and Florida. Miami lost 2 out of 3 to Clemson and Virginia Tech as well. They essentially had a gigantically MEDIOCRE season, and were awarded with a regional hosting spot? Absurd. I may be missing something here, and please let me know if I am, but that is flat out ludicrous for them to be hosting. And I'm not even griping as a State fan. I even think Kentucky had a better resume than the Hurricanes, and they were shipped off to the Purdue regional as a No. 2 seed. When it comes down to it, who the hell knows what the NCAA values most when determining regional hosts. Is it record? Obviously not, Miami is hosting. Is it the way you finish the season? Nope, because State isn't hosting, and FSU finished very poorly and is still a national seed. Is it facilities? It may be, but I'd think 2400 at Coral Gables isn't as profitable for the NCAA as 12,000 is in Starkville. Bottom line is this: I'm not paid to make those decisions, and we have to live with what we're given. Each year there is always something really screwy with the tournament hosts and seedings, so why should this season be any different. We got the draw we got, and I believe if State continues to play at the level they have been playing at, then they can compete in Tallahassee (/gets down off soap box)
- We'll have more on the blog this week getting to know the other teams in our regional, but I can promise you they are all capable of winning our portion of the bracket. Florida State is the No. 3 overall national seed for a reason, as the Seminoles yet again had a great season under 45664th year Head Coach Mike Martin (years of service approximate). Samford is an outstanding club as well, and they hold a win over overall No. 1 seed Florida this year as well. It goes without saying that UAB is very dangerous right now, as they just capped off a remarkable run of their own winning the Conference USA Tournament.
- The debate is already started on the topic of pitching for the weekend: should State save Chris Stratton for a potential Florida State matchup Saturday, or should Strat go on Friday versus Samford. It appears that Coach Cohen and Coach Thompson are leaning towards throwing Chris Friday, as they would want to do all they can to start this tournament 1-0. State will also throw Stratton to counter Samford's Josh Martin, who is the nation's leader in wins with 12, one more than Chris.
- State's first game will be Friday vs. Samford at 11:00am (CDT). Florida State vs. UAB will follow that evening at 5pm.
- This will be State's 33 NCAA regional appearance all-time.
- Like you needed to be reminded of this, but fellow regional contender UAB features not 1 but two coaches familiar with Mississippi State. There's assistant coach Ron Polk, who was the long-time head coach at MSU, then there's head coach Brian Shoop, who was a former MSU assistant under Polk from 1983-1989.
- We'll have much, much more on the blog this week with regards to the regional this weekend. Overall, I feel good about our draw, even if we did get shipped to play with a national seed after finishing the season red hot. I have to believe this team can compete with anyone right now, and they probably welcome the challenge of facing an opponent such as FSU in a hostile environment that surely awaits them at Dick Howser Stadium.
Have a great Tuesday Bulldogs, and make sure to remind all of your rebel coworkers about our brand new SEC Tournament Championship!
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