Flashback to June 21, 2013 - Mississippi State fans everywhere are celebrating as All-American outfielder Hunter Renfroe smokes a 3 run bomb into the left field bullpen at TD Ameritrade Park at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, saluting the fans (an image now draping the side of Polk-Dement Stadium) and leading the Bulldogs to their first ever national title series.
Of course, the Bulldogs did not secure a championship that year losing 2 straight games to UCLA, but they did make it farther than any other team in any sport in Mississippi State history. The 2013 team has been considered one of the best baseball teams to ever grace Dudy Noble Field. Did they have more talent than those legendary 80's teams? Probably not, but they did prove more successful.
Either way, these '13 diamond dogs hold a special place in many modern state fans' hearts because not only were they the only MSU team to make it to the national title series, but they were extremely fun to watch with Renfroe's towering dingers, Jonathan Holder's wicked curveball, and the Bench Mobb's (the second B is silent) mid-inning raps. There is no doubt that team cemented itself as one of the all-time greats at Mississippi State, but are they better than the 2016 team? The 2016 team that is fresh off of an SEC Championship and Regional sweep? Let's examine which team would win in a 3 game series.
First it should be noted that the NCAA switched to a flat-seam baseball in 2015 that supposedly carries a little farther than the old ball and it can definitely be argued that the 2013 hitting statistics will inevitably be lower than 2016 because of it. We'll break it down by sections and see who has the ultimate advantage in this series.
The 2013 outfield had Demarcus Henderson in LF (.274 AVG/0 HR/ 23 RBI), C.T. Bradford in CF (.281 AVG/1 HR/27 RBI), and Hunter Renfroe in RF (.345 AVG/16 HR/65 RBI).
The 2016 outfield has Reid Humphreys in LF (.317 AVG/5 HR/44 RBI), Jacob Robson in CF (.335 AVG/1 HR/24 RBI), and Jake Mangum in RF (.418 AVG/1 HR/27 RBI) with RF Brent Rooker typically starting at DH (.320 AVG/9 HR/51 RBI).
I think it is safe to say that while Hunter Renfroe is the best player in this group (as of now), the 2016 team has more pop in their bats both for average and power and the defense is probably a tie. Edge: 2016
The 2013 infield rotated a lot with Alex Detz (.318 AVG/1 HR/31 RBI) and Sam Frost (.302 AVG/0 HR/10 RBI) splitting time at 3B with Detz getting starts at DH often. Adam Frazier at SS (.352 AVG/0 HR/38 RBI) and Brett Pirtle at 2B (.310 AVG/2 HR/33 RBI) held down the middle infield with Wes Rea (.291 AVG/7 HR/40 RBI) at 1B. Nick Ammiratti (.246 AVG/1 HR/23 RBI) was the main catcher.
The 2016 infield has Gavin Collins at 3B (.301 AVG/10 HR/38 RBI), Ryan Gridley at SS (.284 AVG/2 HR/ 32 RBI), John Holland (.227 AVG/0 HR/12 RBI) and Hunter Stovall (.247 AVG/0 HR/14 RBI) splitting time at 2B. Nate Lowe plays 1B (.358 AVG/5 HR/49 RBI) with Jack Kruger doing most of the catching (.350 AVG/8 HR/40).
This one is close because it seems like '16 has the better corners but '13 has the better middle. '16 has some serious stars with Kruger, Collins, and Lowe but I think the infield as a whole is more solid in '13. Frazier and Pirtle were hitting machines. As mentioned above, you also have to consider that the 2013 guys' averages and power numbers would be a little higher in this new ball era. Defense here is great both years but Frazier and Pirtle were excellent and Rea is the best at picking up teammates' low (and really high) throws Edge: 2013
2013 pitchers drawing the most starts were Kendall Graveman (8-5, 3.09 ERA), Jacob Lindgren (4-3, 4.18 ERA), Luis Pollorena (6-4, 4.27 ERA), Evan Mitchell (0-1, 3,74 ERA), and Trevor Fitts (0-1, 3.03 ERA).
In 2016 it is Dakota Hudson (9-4, 2.62 ERA), Austin Sexton (8-3, 3.67), Konnor Pilkington (3-1, 2.08 ERA), Zac Houston (6-0, 1.63 ERA), and Daniel Brown (4-2, 3.81 ERA).
This may be the easiest decision of them all. There was one thing that the 2013 team always lacked and may very well have cost them a national championship and that is starting pitching. Kendall Graveman was an innings eater and was very good, behind them Cohen just tried to piece a rotation together game by game. Lindgren wasn't quite the Big Chunk that would dominate hitters in 2014 yet and Evan Mitchell had all of the tools but very little command. 2016 is led by All-American Dakota Hudson and has 4-5 proven starters. Edge: 2016
The 2013 bullpen was led by Ross Mitchell (13-0, 1.53 ERA), Chad Girodo (9-1, 1.36 ERA), Jonathan Holder (2-0, 1.65 ERA, 21 SV), and Ben Bracewell (1-1, 1.76 ERA).
The 2016 bullpen is led by Ryan Rigby (5-1, 1.75 ERA, 1 SV), Blake Smith (2-1, 2,84 ERA, 5 SV), Ryan Cyr (1-1, 1.04 ERA), Reid Humphreys (0-1, 5.48 ERA, 7 SV) and Daniel Brown (4-2, 3.81, 2 SV).
This one isn't that hard to decide either. The 2016 bullpen has improved much as of late especially with the return of Daniel Brown to the bullpen, but it is no 2013.. The 2013 team had one of the best bullpens that college baseball has ever seen. No one could hit soft throwing southpaw Ross Mitchell hard and Chad Girodo and Jonathan Holder just seemed to strike out everybody. Edge: 2013
In a 3 game series it would be a tough call. The bullpen of 2013 was just so filthy that it could stop almost any offense, yet the 2016 offense is jaw-dropping with only 2 starters below .300 and only one below .284. With the '16 team sporting a better offense and better starting pitching its just impossible to pick against them. '13 would definitely get one W in my mind because you just can't score a ton of runs day in and day out against Holder and co. and Renfroe is bound to ruin a starter's day at some point. Series win: 2016 2/3
The 2016 baseball team definitely has all the tools needed to win a national championship, but whether they get as far as the 2013 team has yet to be determined. Their opportunity to create their own legacy is upon them, and with the memories state fans have of 2013, we are more eager than ever to watch it unfold.
Let us know your thoughts. Who do you think will win?