Mississippi State’s 2022 season has been whittled down to one remaining ambition: making it to the Southeast Conference tournament. The Diamond Dogs can do it on their own, but it means winning the kinds of games and streaks that have been lost for too much of this campaign.
This last-ditch route begins tonight in College Station with a 6:30 game against Texas A&M. The Aggies have their own ambitions and more. They’re tied for third overall in the SEC with a tiebreaker in their favor and are also in talks to host an NCAA Regional. Their No. 23 RPI according to the NCAA isn’t bad, but it’s also seventh-best in the SEC to date.
So the Aggies have all the post-season motivation a club could want to take care of their home business. State of Mississippi? Well, there’s another goal for the ’22 team now. After an embarrassing but unsurprising midweek loss to Samford, the Bulldogs are just 25-24 overall. That means with six SEC games and an out-of-conference visit to modest North Alabama, securing a winning season is a tougher task than ever imagined for the defending national champions.
It has been well reported in recent weeks that yes, quite a few championship programs one year failed the next year to qualify for the national tournament. But how many of them haven’t even made their conference tournament? That’s another matter entirely, and it’s up to the Bulldogs to save Seekers like us the trouble of winning games now. Winning is asking too much, but winning at least one more series should be under Mississippi state powers.
Speaking of which, horsepower is of course the calling card of the ’22 team with 84 homers. Or rather it was their card, if not quite often an asset, as the Dogs mustered only one longball in the Florida series and none against Samford who, on the other hand, won on two Grand Slam shots . If there’s a worse time for power to drop, it’s for a state team that’s batting for a nice average but dragging too few teammates with the contacts.
State will perform the same rotation on the right side for another weekend of Brandon Smith, Preston Johnson and Cade Smith. The starter’s combined ERA of 4.66 isn’t terrible by this season’s throwing standards. Offense reigns everywhere in the college game these days. But all recent starts have been a bit slow and too often the state ends up playing from behind; or not building tracks big enough to last soon enough for a paddock that has one, repeat one, save the whole SEC season.
Or another bewildering contrast is a staff that is second in strikeouts in the SEC, most of them swinging Ks, is also last in the league running. They are also near the bottom in doulbes and home runs are allowed. That’s on top of a staff that, as early as March, deserved the ‘all or nothing’ description in any stick.
Well. By Sunday evening, if not sooner, we may know if there are any ambitions left for this team. And however this series plays out, there will be another Dawghouse to discuss Monday morning.
GENERAL SEC/NCAA RPI RANKING
1.Tennessee .840 21-4 #1RPI
2. Arkansas .667 16-8 #19
T3.Texas A&M .609 14-10 (def. LSU) #23
Q3.LSU .583 14-10 #16
T5.Auburn .565 13-11 #8
6. Georgia .520 13-12 #9
7.Vanderbilt .500 12-12 #5
8.Florida .458 11-13 #13
T9.Alabama .417 10-14 (def. OM, def. SC) #40
T9. South Carolina .417 10-14 (def. OM) #70
T9.Ole Miss .417 10-14 #48
T12.Mississippi State .375 9-15 (Arkansas is decisive over UK) #105
T12.Kentucky .375 9-15 #57
14. Missouri .292 7-17 #58
Tennessee: Georgia, @Mississippi State
Arkansas: Vanderbilt, @Alabama
Auburn: Alabama, @Kentucky
Georgia: @Tennessee, @Missouri
Texas A&M: Mississippi State, @Ole Miss
LSU: Ole Miss, @Vanderbilt
Alabama: @Auburn, Arkansas
Vanderbilt: @Arkansas, LSU
State of Mississippi: @Texas A&M, Tennessee
Florida: @Missouri, South Carolina
South Carolina: Kentucky, @Florida
Kentucky: @South Carolina, Auburn
Ole Miss: @LSU, Texas A&M
Missouri: Florida, @Georgia