MSU seniors want to seize opportunity
MSU senior Ryan Collins (38) visits with first base coach Nick Mingione this season. (Photo by Kim Murrell, SDN)
By DANNY P. SMITH
It's a new season.
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That's how Mississippi State senior Ryan Collins sees today's opportunity to begin competing at the NCAA Atlanta Regional.
The Bulldogs definitely want a better showing than last week's 0-2 result at the Southeastern Conference Tournament in Hoover, Ala.
"It all starts over," Collins said. "You put the regular season behind you. It's exciting to get into the tournament and for us seniors, everything we've put in and the hard work the last few years for it to finally pay off and to make a regional, it feels pretty good, but now we've got to go out there and focus on Southern Miss."
MSU plays in-state rival Southern Mississippi at 2 p.m.
Since none of the Bulldogs have ever seen the postseason prior to this season, they are not going down without a fight.
"We've got four guys who have been on this team for four years and haven't even seen the SEC Tournament so I'm sure they are as eager as anybody to get a win," MSU senior Nick Vickerson said. "We've got a great group of leaders. We've got Oggy (Jonathan Ogden) leading the defense and (Jarrod) Parks leading in batting average and everything he's done this year. I think we've got a great group of seniors to help lead this team."
Vickerson, Collins, Ogden, Parks, Jaron Shepherd, Cody Freeman, Wes Thigpen and Trey Johnson are senior Bulldogs who have finally tasted the postseason.
Parks, who leads MSU with a .383 batting average, said the seniors deserve to have success with everything they have been through together.
"All of our seniors are so close to each other," Parks said. "We all provide the same type of effort as everyone on the team. The seniors do a good job of leading the team and I'm happy for each one of them. I'm happy we don't end our year with how we played at the SEC Tournament. We get to end up hoping to play well against an in-state rival and possibly winning a regional."
No Bulldog is hotter at the plate right now than Vickerson.
Even though MSU lost a 7-5 decision to Florida at the SEC Tournament, Vickerson had three hits, including his seventh home run of the season. He added a double in the 7-2 loss to Arkansas.
"I'm seeing it well and we've had good preparation," Vickerson said. "The SEC Tournament has a big ballpark so I felt like the pitchers were really aggressive and I don't think any of us were getting pitched around so I think that had a lot to do with it.
"I think batting behind Jarrod has helped me out a lot because they pitch him tough in every at-bat so I get to see a lot of pitches on deck. (It's good to get hot) especially at the right time, but just because I was hot last week doesn't mean I will be this week. That's why I'm going to have the same preparation and just get after it."