One of my personal favorite areas of Dudy Noble Field is the outfield. Although all State fans, myself included, have an appreciation for the wonderful culture and tradition of the Left Field Lounge, an even more subtle piece of tradition always catches my eye: the numbers of past championships and other achievements featured on the outfield wall.
These numbers are loaded: they showcase the achievements of past teams, but they also have a sobering, almost sad quality to them. Contained in these simple numbers are entire seasons: the highs and the lows, the thrill of victory and the crush of defeat and the ultimate joys of success, all reduced to a painted number on a wall. Today, I will bring some of these numbers and the past seasons they represent back to life.
In celebration of MSU's Starkville Regional sweep, the subject of today's history lesson is past MSU Super Regionals. In the interests of full disclosure, the Super Regional did not exist until 1999, when the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament was first played under the current format. The current numbers on the outfield wall at Dudy Noble feature our 35 NCAA Tournament appearances and our 9 college World Series appearances, but a little reading in between the lines is required to examine the Super Regionals in depth. These games, the final stop on the road to Omaha, lie in between simply making the Tournament and achieving the ultimate goal of advancing to the College World Series.
2000: Mississippi State vs. Clemson
Mississippi State reached their first Super Regional in just the second year of the new tournament format. The Pat MacMahon-led squad hosted a regional at Dudy Noble, which they won 3 games to 1. The Regional victory came with a dramatic walk off victory over Notre Dame. The squad advanced to the Super Regionals to face the Clemson Tigers. MSU lost the first two games of the Super Regional, however, and finished their season 41-20.
2001: Mississippi State vs. Cal State Fullerton
2001 marked coach Pat MacMahon's final season coaching the Maroon and White. The 2001 edition of the Diamond Dawgs started off slow, but the team made a deep postseason run, beginning with an SEC Tournament Championship. The Bulldogs then won their regional in Columbus, Ohio to advance to the Supers. The 2001 Dawgs found no more success than those of 2000, dropping the first two games in distant Fullerton, CA, to return home to Starkville with a final record of 39-24 on the season.
2007: Mississippi State vs. Clemson
2007 was an exciting season for Bulldog Baseball fans. Although the Ron Polk-led Dawgs didn't win either the SEC regular season or Tournament titles, the team made a deep run in the NCAA postseason. The Dawgs started their NCAA run by sweeping the Tallahassee regional, an impressive feat that included two victories over top-seeded Florida State. As a result of their success in the Sunshine State, Dudy Noble Field was selected as a host site for the Super Regionals. Mississippi State advanced to their first College World Series under the current format in 2007 by winning the Starkville Regional in dramatic fashion. The Bulldogs swept the Super Regional, defeating Clemson in two games by scores of 8-6 and 8-5. Here is a video of State's second victory over Clemson that sent them to the CWS.
2011: Mississippi State vs. Florida
Of all the years for a Super Regional run, 2011 was the most unlikely. John Cohen's Bulldogs finished the regular season sitting at 6th in the SEC and finished 8th in the SEC Tournament. There was still fight left in those Dawgs, however. Mississippi State landed as a 3 seed in the Atlanta Regional hosted by Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs swept the regional, defeating the host Yellow Jackets by an impressive score of 7-3 to advance to the Gainesville Super Regional. In the Supers, the Dawgs took on the formidable Florida Gators, the number 2 overall seed in the Tournament. The Dawgs fell in the first game by a score of 11-1, and all hoped seemed lost. The Bulldogs, however, defeated the Gators in game 2 by a score of 4-3 to force a Super Regional championship game. The Dawgs fell 8-6 in that game, however, and ended their season at 38-25.
2013: Mississippi State vs. Virginia
The most recent of State's Super Regional appearances, the 2013 edition should still be vivid in the minds of the MSU faithful. John Cohen's Bulldogs finished the regular season 41-20 and 3rd in the SEC West with a Semifinal appearance in the SEC tournament. The real magic of 2013 began in the NCAA Tournament, with MSU hosting a regional at Dudy Noble. MSU won the regional and advanced to the Super Regionals, where they faced perennial power Virginia, the 6th overall seed. The Dawgs swept the Cavaliers in two games, to advance to the College World Series, where they made a deep run and finished as the runner up.
In 2016, we now have another chance to make history. We've secured a national seed. We've swept the Starkville regional to advance and host a Super Regional and face the Arizona Wildcats. What comes next is largely in the hands of the team, but we, the fans, can help.
The 2016 Super Regional will be played this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (if necessary), at Dudy Noble. Each game begins at 5 PM. Come out, dress for the heat, wear sunscreen, and help will our Dawgs to victory to get another shot at the College World Series and another number on that outfield wall.