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SMITH COLUMN: MSU rallies for a strong second half

May 20, 2012

Smith

It has been a pretty amazing comeback for the Mississippi State Bulldogs on the baseball field.

Saturday's rally for the Bulldogs against the Kentucky Wildcats to take an 11-3 victory puts the finishing touches on an impressive second half of the Southeastern Conference season.

After a 5-10 start in the first half of the SEC schedule, MSU turned that around for an 11-4 mark in the final 15 league games. During that run, the Bulldogs swept Tennessee on Super Bulldog Weekend and capped the regular season by winning all three games from Kentucky.

In a season where MSU definitely had its struggles at times, it has put together a pretty solid season to this point and coach John Cohen said the key to the turnaround has been getting some injured players back and getting a spike in confidence. The competitive spirit of his team is what makes the Bulldogs very dangerous.

"I feel we can compete against anybody," Cohen said. "(Kentucky) is one of the best teams in the country we just played against. When we played Florida, it's one of the best teams in the country. The whole key is getting on a roll in tournament play."

MSU heads to next week's SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., with some definite momentum.

It could be setting up for a another nice postseason for the Bulldogs, who made a run to the Gainesville Super Regional and were very close to making an appearance in the NCAA College World Series.

"It's kind of like last year when we got hot at the right time," said MSU outfielder Demarcus Henderson, who was instrumental in Saturday's win with his two hits and three RBI. "I just hope to take it a little bit farther this year."

There's no question with Chris Stratton and Kendall Graveman, the Bulldogs have one of the best one-two punches on the mound in the SEC.

The unfortunately thing there is Stratton will not be available to pitch on the first day of the SEC Tournament and will be questionable for the second after working on Thursday against the Wildcats. There's a chance Graveman might be able to come back after only throwing 55 pitches on Friday night.

The other league teams are facing the same pitching problem with three days rest between the end of the regular season and the first day of the SEC Tournament.

It's going to be one of those "cross that bridge when we get to it" type of situations.

For now, the Bulldogs can enjoy their accomplishment of having the most SEC wins (16) since the 2003 season when they had a 17-12 conference record. That was coach Ron Polk's second season of his second stint with MSU.

Here is something to consider to wrap this up. The Bulldogs have six one-run losses in the SEC this season. If they had found a way to win four of those six, that would make 20 conference victories and a conference championship to discuss right now.

I know - would of, should of, could of, but it's still interesting to ponder.
 
Danny P. Smith is sports editor and columnist for Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Daily News or its staff.

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