To say the Bulldogs got off to a, shall we say, roller coaster start to their 2020 season would be an understatement. After a 5-1 start, including taking two of three against a nationally-ranked Oregon State Beavers team, the Diamond Dawgs seemed to sputter almost immediately after the hot start.
After losing the third and final game of the Oregon State series, the Bulldogs would start a minor skid, with the low point being an embarrassing 8-4 loss to Texas Southern. They would follow that up with a solid win over fellow in-state school Alcorn State, bringing the season record to a respectable 6-2. However, they would then lose two out of three against West Coast opponent Long Beach State, finding themselves shutout in the series opener. The sudden skid suddenly seemed to cast a shadow of doubt over whether or not the team could return to Omaha for a third consecutive season, but just as suddenly as the doubts began to creep in, a resurgence put those doubts to bed.
Right away, the Bulldogs began to show that they were still a very talented team despite losing seniors Jake Mangum, Elijah MacNamee and Ethan Small from the previous season. The Dawgs would go on to sweep Quinnipiac in three games before truly showing their muscle by taking both games in a two-game series with fellow top-tier program Texas Tech. The five-game winning streak could not have come at a better time as the Diamond Dawgs carried that win streak into conference play. The Bulldogs seemingly had all the momentum in the world, but as we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States just as the Dawgs were getting red hot. Before anyone knew what had happened, the 2020 College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, was canceled. Not long after, as was all of spring sports, including college baseball. The Diamond Dawgs season would end at a solid 13-4.
The flash of star power shown by the Bulldogs at the end of the 2020 season has created a new excitement ahead of 2021. Of course, we’re still not sure if there will even be a 2021 season. But if there is, you can bet the Bulldogs will be a favorite to reach Omaha for the 12th time. Even the losses of Justin Foscue, Jordan Westburg and JT Ginn can’t seem to slow down the hype for this team. Though those losses will definitely take a toll on the lineup, the roster is slam packed with talent. And as head coach Chris Lemonis enters his third year at the helm, you can bet this team will be ready to go come February.
For the what seems like the very first time in my lifetime, or at least for as long as I can remember, Mississippi State Baseball just feels destined for Omaha on a yearly basis. I would venture to say this is the best shape the program has been in a long time. I mean over the past couple years, we’ve seen highly touted prospects turn down millions of dollars from Major League ball clubs just to come to play at Dudy Noble Field during the spring. And it isn’t like Mississippi State has only become a good team in the last two years. It seems as though many people forget that the Dawgs won the SEC Championship in 2016, as well as appeared in back-to-back Super Regionals in 2016 and 2017 before the back-to-back Omaha runs of 2018 and 2019. To add to that point, the Bulldogs lost to the eventual national runner-up both of those years they went out in the Super Regionals (Arizona in ‘16 and LSU in ‘17). To put it into basketball terms, the Bulldogs have made the equivalent of the Sweet 16 each of the last four years, the last two of which have been the equivalent of the Final Four and the Elite 8, respectively.
Mississippi State baseball is in an incredible position, in my opinion. Just as recently as this past MLB Draft, we had a commit who was drafted in the top three rounds seriously weigh his options between going pro and coming to Starkville. I think that alone speaks for itself in the incredible shape the program is in.
Of course, that statement comes with the burning question every Bulldog fan wants to know the answer to: When will we FINALLY win a national championship?
As much as I wish I could answer that question, I can’t. I truly wish I knew the answer. I firmly believe that day is coming though. Whether it is sooner rather than later, that day will come. And when it does, there will be a celebration like no other in StarkVegas. But until that day, we can only dream.
For the first time since I can remember, I am truly giddy about the thought of baseball season. And I hope this feeling never goes away.
Until next time,