8 To say that the 2018 Mississippi State Bulldogs are full of expectations is an understatement. Under 2nd year head coach Andy Cannizaro, the Dawgs are looking to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in the last twenty seasons. But that isn’t the only goal the team hopes to achieve. They also hope to do something they haven’t done since 2013: Go to the College World Series.
For those who don’t remember the 2013 season, the Diamond Dawgs made school history that year. They not only made it to Omaha, but also played UCLA for the National Championship. They didn’t win of course, but they did something much more important: they made the nation take notice of the program again. No team had ever accomplished what the 2013 Dawgs had. The 1990 team never accomplished that. Not even the 1985 super team, that featured Raphael Palmeiro and Will Clark, ever accomplished that. The 2013 season was the last time the Bulldogs appeared in the College World Series. But this 2018 team looks well equipped to change that.
Last year in Andy Cannizaro’s first season as head coach, the Bulldogs suffered a heart breaking loss during the Super Regionals to eventual National Championship runner-up LSU. That loss is still gut wrenching to think about. That team was so full of talent and deserved to go to the CWS. But as always, being close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. The team lost a few stars, but there is one player who is still around who has the potential to be a first round draft pick whenever he decides to leave MSU. That player is a guy by the name of Jake Mangum.
Mangum burst on to the scene during the 2015 season that ended similarly to 2016 (the Dawgs lost in the Super Regionals to the eventual National Championship runner-up. That time being Arizona.). Mangum was one of the leading candidates for the Golden Spikes Award this past season, and it came as a surprise to some people that he decided not to declare for the MLB Draft. He could have easily left, but he didn’t. This year he is joined by a team capable of shocking the nation.
This years team should have little to no trouble navigating the waters of the SEC. The team is very strong on many fronts, especially at the plate. State’s abundance of pure hitters is going to be their saving grace this season. Pitching, as usual, will have it’s ups and downs, but will work out it’s issues at the right time. The only question is whether or not the Diamond Dawgs can take the next step and claim a spot as one of the best 8 teams in the country. They’ve done it 9 times before. This team shouldn’t have too much trouble doing it again. The trick is to avoid the eventual National Championship runner-up. Unless the only time they play said team is for the National Championship. This team looks like it could be a huge success.
Only time will tell....