Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

SEC Championship Chase Scenarios; Holding Strong in the RPI; Three Dogs Up for Ferriss Trophy

League offices, media, and most of all home-team administrators adore a down-to-wire title race. So three SEC West Division venues should see busy box offices Thursday.

There are five teams still in contention to win the conference championship with three games left for everyone. That’s weather allowing and no, we will not attempt breaking down all the possible ramifications of rainouts.

But all Diamond Dog fans care about now is how can their team win the SEC’s crown, something not done in Starkville since 1989? The best scenario is reasonably simple.

If the Bulldogs sweep Arkansas; and both Texas A&M and Florida lose at least once in their series, then Mississippi State takes the title and top overall seeding next week in Hoover.

The other scenarios involve a little more than just winning one more game than the Aggies and Gators. If State takes 2-of-3 themselves; Ole Miss and LSU also win two games; then Alabama needs to beat South Carolina at least once too.

Of course this all pre-supposed Bulldog success against an Arkansas squad desperate just to make the SEC Tournament. There are series scenarios that could take State not only out of championship contention, but seed them as low as sixth and maybe even seventh in Hoover!

 

The excitement of a SEC Championship chase has temporarily taken attention away from the NCAA Tournament outlook. Mississippi State is guaranteed a berth by now. Increasingly they are just about assumed a lock to host a first-round Regional as well. And with a May winning streak, national seeding and host rights for both rounds just gets closer and closer.

The latest NCAA.com RPI standings keep the Bulldogs at #8, which would be the last of the national seeds. That is actually good news after playing a low-RPI Auburn team. Sweeping them on the road kept State from losing any RPI ground.

But six SEC squads are in the top-ten as of today. Florida remains #1, while Texas A&M has taken #4 and South Carolina is #5. Ole Miss is #7 ahead of State; and Vanderbilt rounds out the top ten.

LSU is #13, then it drops off to #30 Georgia.

To be clear, RPI is not the be-all and end-all factor is selecting national seeds and number-one seeds. But being #8 is a good sign for folk who want to spend consecutive June weekends at Dudy Noble Field.

Athletic director Scott Stricklin confirmed last week what all expected, that Mississippi State has indeed submitted official bids for both a regional and a super regional.

 

A curious fact from this week’s NCAA RPI listing. Mississippi State has the most wins of any top-ten team, with 13. But they also have the most home losses, 9.

 

It went practically unnoticed. But Mississippi State has just matched some program history.

By sweeping Auburn, these Bulldogs have tied the record for total series victories in a season. They have won eight weekends, out of nine tries.

Eight successful series matches the mark of the 1997 team which won eight out of their ten weekends. The record was set back in 1983 though, by a team that went 8-of-8 for their entire SEC season. Of course that was back in the era of five-team divisions playing home-and-homes with each other only.

So if the 2016 team can’t match perfection, they can set the record for total series victories.

Also, this team has matched 1997 in another category by going 5-for-5 in SEC road series.

 

Mississippi State has strung together seven-straight SEC wins. The last Bulldog team to score such a streak was 2003, also a seven-win run including consecutive series sweeps.

The last eight-SEC-game streak? That was in 1992.

 

Three Bulldogs have been selected among the five finalists for the Ferriss Trophy. This award, named for all-time Mississippi State great Dave ‘Boo’ Ferriss, is given to the player voted as best from the state’s four-year institutions.

Junior starting pitcher Dakota Hudson; junior outfielder/pitcher Reid Humphreys; and freshman outfielder Jake Mangum will represent MSU among the finalists. They are joined by Ole Miss outfielder J.B. Woodman and Delta State outfielder/pitcher Will Robertson. Finalists were selected with the assistance of baseball scouts covering the state programs.

The winner will be announced May 23 at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame on Lakeland Drive in Jackson.

Four Bulldogs have won the Ferriss Trophy which was first awarded in 2004. Shortstop Thomas Berkery (2006), catcher Ed Easley (2007), pitcher Chris Stratton (2012), and outfielder Hunter Renfroe (2013) are previous winners.

 

This weekend’s closing series with Arkansas matches the #2 overall offense in the SEC against the last-place pitching staff. The Bulldogs are batting .312 collectively behind only Texas A&M. Arkansas’s staff has a 5.01 era, only one above the 5-mark.

 

Mississippi State is the runaway league leader in doubles with 112. That’s 14 two-baggers ahead of the second-best squad.

The Bulldogs now have 38 home runs. That puts them in range of doubling the entire 2015 total for homers which was 22.

 

Mangum continues to hold second-place in individual SEC hitting (whole season) at .409. He trails only A&M’s Boomer White at .426. They are the only two league players batting over .400 for the whole season, with the #3 guy (Auburn’s Palacious) at .386.

 

Lowe is seventh in SEC batting this week at .353. And catcher/DH Jack Kruger is quietly trying to sneak into the top-ten as well. He’s #11 right now at .348.

 

This team’s RBI-leader race could hardly be closer after 13 weekends. Lowe (45) does have the lead right now but that’s only one in front of Humphreys’ 44, and Rooker is right behind at 43. All have already exceeded the top RBI producer in both the last two seasons.

 

The Bulldog pitching staff has worked 469.1 innings. They have 468 strikeouts in this span.

 

RHP Dakota Hudson goes into Thursday’s scheduled start with 91 strikeouts. The last Bulldog to fan 100 in a season was Jacob Lindgren in 2014, with exactly 100. Chris Stratton had 127 strikeouts in 2012.

 

Hudson has fanned 91 batters in 89.1 innings. And RHP Austin Sexton is dead-even there at 78 strikeouts in 78.0 innings. Stratton was also the last State starter to average more strikeouts than innings pitched for a full season.

 

This relief staff has 15 saves already, compared to 9 all last season. And the record is only 24, by the 2013 staff of course.


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