Diamond Dogs Can Make National Statement In L.A. Weekend

Gavin Collins is a California kid, after all. So no wonder he knows Bruins and Trojans. “I’ve got a bunch of friends on USC and UCLA,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them and how they’re progressing.”

But that’s not all the Diamond Dog third baseman/catcher is looking forward to during this weekend in Los Angeles. It’s a business trip for Mississippi State, remember.

So, “I’m really excited to go out there and show them how the SEC does it.”

Mississippi State (7-2) is indeed representing the Southeastern Conference during three west coast games. The Bulldogs are taking on, in turn, UCLA on Friday evening; Southern Cal on Saturday; and finally Oklahoma on Sunday. Those SEC/Pac 12 matchups will be played on the respective campuses.

The latter, on the legendary turf of Dodger Stadium. The MSU Radio Network is scheduled to carry the first and third games. Saturday is a conflict with men’s basketball back in Starkville but will have a local feed as well as a Pac 12 Network viewing availability.

For Lake Forest native and El Toro High alumnus Collins, it’s a happy homecoming under any circumstance. Certainly this is a far shorter trip for family and friends than two years ago when the Diamond Dogs were playing in Arizona. So, Collins said, he expects a larger private cheering section this time.

But, he added, “This is also more special because we’re a better team than we were then. And we expect to go out and dominate.”

Bold talk for a program getting back on its cleats after a tough 2015. But there is merit to Collins’ comment. The Bulldogs have been strong in their seven wins, and the only losses have been to a Florida Atlantic team which is unbeaten (against college competition that is) so far. That doesn’t make the two setbacks any easier to swallow of course.

Still Collins and fellow veterans can see the difference in this team, in all aspects. They also see that all three opponents have had their own early-season struggles, albeit generally against quality competition as well. Mississippi State and UCLA both are currently ranked in all the national polls; Southern Cal is in a couple of the listings, and Oklahoma has dropped out.

It means that games which already would have been spiced by natural ‘my league is better than yours’ talk take on even bigger meaning. Come June and NCAA Tournament seeding and siting, the committee will definitely look at this weekend’s results. Not just for the four participants but their entire conferences for that matter.

Pressure? Perhaps. Collins isn’t concerned that way though.

“If we take care of our individual jobs we’ll have no problem making a great statement and showing the entire country how good we really are.”

Besides, winning will give this Diamond Dog something of an edge in future conversations with his Trojan and Bruin buds. So far, it’s been all friendly. “Just the daily catch-up stuff, how’s the family, how’s the family. Not too much smack talk,” Collins said.

“Not yet at least!”

Gene's Page Top Stories