The 2011 season ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Mississippi State Bulldogs after coming within moments of a trip to the College World Series.
This time around the Bulldogs are one of the hottest teams in college baseball and look to make their way to Omaha and the College World Series.
“It would be awesome to get to Omaha and that is our goal,” said senior outfielder Brent Brownlee. ‘We were in this same spot last year, but this year feels different. Our confidence is higher now than it has ever been since I’ve been here. That’s huge in itself and we’ve just got to keep it going.”
On Monday afternoon, Mississippi State (39-22) learned the first step on the path to Omaha was the Tallahassee (Fla.) Regional hosted by No. 3 national seed Florida State.
MSU will be the No. 2 seed in the four-team regional and play the No. 3 seed Samford Bulldogs (39-21) at 11 a.m. on Friday.
The Bulldogs are brimming with confidence after winning the Southeastern Conference Championship on Sunday, completing a brutal stretch of games against some of the best teams in the nation.
“We were talking about it on the bus ride after that we felt like we just won the College World Series as tough as that was,” Brownlee said. “Having to play six games in six days, that was tough. That’s huge for us.“
Brownlee isn’t the only MSU player to feel the boost in energy. Demarcus Henderson, who was chosen to the SEC’s All-Tournament team, agrees with the prevailing sentiment that no one wants to face this group of Bulldogs.
“It gives us a lot of confidence," Henderson said. "They said on TV a few minutes ago that nobody wanted to play us right now because of our pitching and how we are playing defense. I tell ya, that’s one of the last teams you want to play is one that is pitching and playing defense well. It is a big confidence booster that we are in that spot.”
State fans remember their last trip to Tallahassee in 2007 which ultimately resulted in a Super Regional in Starkville and a trip to the College World Series.
MSU head coach John Cohen also remembers Dick Howser Stadium and knows his experience there could help his team.
“It was one of the benefits of being at Florida for a couple of years, we played at their ballpark,” Cohen said. “Certainly that ballpark is unique, it is not generic in nature. The right side plays really short and that can be really deceiving if the wind is blowing out in that direction. Those guys play awfully well at home, but I really like the way Mississippi State is playing right now.”
Despite the short porch in right field and the potential for home runs, Brownlee feels it wont impact the way Mississippi State approaches the weekend.
“We are not a real big, powerful team,” Brownlee said. “We just want to focus on staying in the middle, hit line drives and do our thing. Get (hit by pitches), walks, take those marginal pitches, try to do our best to get on base and just let things happen for us.”
It is hard to argue with that philosophy after the Bulldogs finished the last 24 games with a 18-6 record thanks in large part to a pitching staff that combines for a 1.58 ERA. While the opening game is a long way away in the eyes of Cohen, he feels his team must put their best foot forward against Samford and that could mean turning to their ace.
“Just off the top of my head I would be leaning in the direction of Chris Stratton,” Cohen said. “You’ve got to get off to a great start in these things and you can’t win game number two unless you win game number one. You’ve got to ask yourself who gives you the best opportunity. We’ll talk to Butch (Thompson) and make a better decision.”
Tournament passes for the regional are $50 for reserved seats and $35 for general admission seats. These are good for every game of the tournament. Single game reserved seats are $12 with general admission tickets priced at $10 for adults, $7 for youth and students. The stadium will be cleared at the end of each game.
All-Tournament Books for the 2012 NCAA Baseball Tallahassee Regional ($50 for reserved seats and $35 for general admission seats) will go on sale today at 7:30 a.m. via the Internet at www.seminoles.com . Tickets will also be available by phone at 888-FSU-Nole and at the Seminole Athletics Ticket Office between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
Single game tickets for the Friday sessions only will go on sale via the web (www.seminoles.com ) beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday. In person and phone sales of single game tickets for Friday's games begin at 7:30 a.m. Friday. Single game tickets for games on subsequent days will go on sale on the web immediately following the last game of the previous day and at Dick Howser Stadium two hours prior to the start of the first game.