Mississippi State ended the 2013 season in the College World Series championship series against UCLA. Although they ended up losing that series and ended the season No. 2 ranked in the country, Collegiate Baseball took note of what is being built at Mississippi State by the coaches and saw enough from them to rank the 2014 edition No. 2 in their 2014 pre-season baseball poll.
The No. 2 pre-season ranking is MSU's highest pre-season honor since the 1989 squad was selected No. 1 going into the season.
While everybody associated with the program is excited about the news - fans, coaches and players - MSU head coach John Cohen is a little more low-key about the pre-season ranking.
"I think these kind of things are a reward for our kids but you truly don't get the (real) reward until at the end of the season," said Cohen. "While I do appreciate the recognition from the people at Collegiate Baseball, Wes Rea said in one of his tweets - and I agree with him 100% - you have to earn these things, they aren't given to you."
And Mississippi State has definitely earned it during the five years under John Cohen.
After recording a combined 48-62 record in his first two years at the helm of the Diamond Dog program, Cohen led his next three teams to a combined 129-69 record, including an NCAA post-season record of 13-7.
His last three teams earned final season rankings of No. 15 (2011), No. 22 (2012) and No. 2 (2013).
Those three teams also saw a long list of post-season All-American honors for its players, including RHP Chris Stratton, OF Hunter Renfroe, RHP Jonathan Holder, LHP Ross Mitchell, SS Adam Frazier and LHP Chad Girodo.
Cohen has had 21 MSU players selected in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft the past five years, including seven at the conclusion of the 2013 season. Two of those twenty-one were first-rounders Chris Stratton (2012) and Hunter Renfroe (2013), MSU's 19th and 20th first-round selections.
Mississippi State has also seen its recruiting pick up during Cohen's five years with a best ranking of No. 2 for the 2013 recruiting class.
MSU not only has the No. 2 recruiting class on the current squad but also returns five position starters, including 1B Wes Rea, 2B Brett Pirtle, 3B Alex Detz, CF C.T. Bradford and LF Demarcus Henderson. Key losses are RF Hunter Renfroe, SS Adam Frazier and C Nick Ammirati.
Look for returning players C/DH Daniel Garner, MIF Kyle Hann, OF Derrick Armstrong, OF Jacob Robson, SS Matthew Britton, C Zach Randolph and OF Cody Brown to be major contributors this coming season.
Expected to immediately contribute from the 2013 recruiting class are freshmen 3B/1B Reid Humphreys, C Gavin Collins and junior college transfers C Cody Walker, MIF Seth Heck and OF Jake Vickerson.
Pitching-wise, MSU returns eleven pitchers who threw in six or more games last season. Of those pitchers, one, Brandon Woodruff, is returning from an injury. He showed first-round stuff during the fall scrimmages and should compete for the Friday night starting role. Ben Bracewell, Preston Brown, Trevor Fitts are returning pitchers who are also competing for a starting role. Also returning are MSU's two All-American relievers, Jonathan Holder and Ross Mitchell. Hard-throwing lefty Jacob Lindgren has also been moved to the bullpen and is expected to take departed Chad Girodo's spot. Returners John Marc Shelly, Will Cox and Myles Gentry will also have significant roles in the bullpen.
Expected to be significant contributors from the 2013 recruiting class are freshmen Dakota Hudson and Austin Sexton as well as junior college transfer Paul Young. All three should compete for starting roles on the squad.
Key losses from the pitching staff are starters Kendall Graveman and Luis Pollorena, as well as part-time starter Evan Mitchell and reliever Chad Girodo.
Mississippi State's 2014 season begins February 14th at 4 pm against Hofstra.
Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.