The Mississippi State Diamond Dawgs have completed six of their ten SEC series of the season. In this article, I'm going to give a "status report" on the team, reviewing the season so far and looking ahead at the rest of the schedule.
Looking at the year so far
Through about 2/3 of the season, Mississippi State holds a 28-13-1 record overall, 10-8 in conference. Looking at the schedule as a whole and the opponents we've faced, this record is beyond fantastic. If you would've told me before the season that State would have that record at this time, I would've taken it in a heartbeat.
1. Non-conference opponents
The Bulldogs didn't get off to a hot start in the beginning of the year. I'm sure all fans (myself included) were frustrated after opening weekend, going 2-2, both of the losses coming to FAU. Looking at Florida Atlantic now, those weren't bad losses at all. The Owls are currently 28-10 on the year, ranked 24th in the Baseball America poll, including a win over then #1 Miami.
State won five straight games over pretty poor opponents before traveling to Los Angeles. We ended up going 1-1-1 that week, losing to UCLA, beating USC, and tying Oklahoma. Looking back, that was a prime example of just the youth of the team catching up to them. It was their first games on the road against top notch programs. The weekend in L.A. was a learning experience for the inexperienced bunch.
Afterwards, State got a midweek win over South Alabama. At the time, it didn't seem like that big of a win for the team. But, looking back now, they have a 30-11 record with a four game lead in the Sun Belt standings. Of course, after the South Alabama win, there was the Oregon sweep. Many can credit that sweep as the kickstart to the run State is having currently. Oregon hasn't fared too well this season since that series, but it was a gigantic confidence boost to the club as SEC play loomed near.
Next were the two midweek losses to Eastern Kentucky and Oral Roberts. I really have nothing to say about these losses. They were inexcusable and, as we sit right now, could've helped our RPI if we would've taken them. I guess the Eastern Kentucky game was just the youth of the bullpen showing, but I really don't know. We should've won those games; we're better than them.
2. SEC Play
After the losses to EKU and ORU, I'm sure we all had our doubts heading into conference play, particularly having to travel to Vanderbilt. But, behind great pitching performances from Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton, we were able to pull the series out. For the most part of the SEC slate, that's been the case. Wins on Friday and Saturday, but losing on Sunday. Vanderbilt, Georgia, Ole Miss, and LSU have been that way. Sure, the Sunday losses are frustrating, but these opponents are all quality teams.
If you are disappointed with the Sunday losses and believe they could be the bane of the season, they're not. A 10-8 record in conference so far is beyond fantastic. We could have a better record than that; I understand. But, the positives are gleaming bright, and series wins over the SEC foes we've faced make up arguably the best resume in the country.
3. Midweek Games
State has excelled in midweek games during conference play. We're 6-0 in those games, and unlike the midweek games before the SEC period, pitching has been superb. In the six wins, State has given up an average of 1.3 runs per game, 7 hits per game, and has pitched three shutouts.
State's remaining schedule lays out beautifully. State's remaining SEC opponents; Alabama, Missouri, Auburn, and Arkansas, have a combined record of 88-78, 24-48 in conference. Our only remaining non-conference opponent, Troy, has a 23-18 record, 9-9 in the Sun Belt.
Sure, some of our remaining foes could sneak up on us, particularly Alabama or Arkansas, but with how we're playing right now, that shouldn't happen.
As we sit right now, we are in tip top shape. There is really nothing about which you should be too disappointed. I do agree that some of our losses could've, and really should've, gone our way, but other than that, this is as good as one could imagine our team being at this point in the year.
We're past the midway point of the non-conference slate, over the hump, and we're headed down to the end of the season at a fast pace.