The Diamond Dogs are receiving lots of that again. After their latest SEC series success, and with a continued stay atop the league standings, pollsters are showing increased regard. All four of the primary rankings have Mississippi State in their top-tens.
Baseball America gives the highest grade this week at #6; with D1Baseball.com right behind at #7. In both the National College Baseball Writers and USA Today’s Coaches polls the Bulldogs are #9.
Now, top-ten and better rankings are nothing new to Mississippi State baseball. At the same time this was not forecast as a top-ten sort of team what with record draft damage to the 2016 SEC Champions. And, with a rash of fall and pre-season and even in-season injuries leaving Cannizaro with a shortened ’17 roster.
So no wonder the first-year coach is of a mind to share this outside applause.
“It’s a lot of respect,” Cannizaro said Monday evening on his final call-in show of the season. “And it says a lot about the work our players have put in this year. It says a lot about not just game day but practice as well.”
Speaking of practice…
Mississippi State (32-16, 16-8 SEC) got back to that Monday after a free day to enjoy taking two at Texas A&M. That is the benefit of a Thursday-starting series, especially for the traveling team. The Bulldogs also have had their academic burdens lifted with spring exams in the books.
Even just getting around town and campus is easy with the between-semesters period here. This means Cannizaro can demand total focus on nothing but baseball now.
He said his team has that. “We already have tunnel vision on Georgia,” Cannizaro reported from Monday’s practice. “A lot of quality swings and defensive work, doing everything we can to continue to play well.”
The Bulldogs played much better at College Station than in the previous weekend, when Auburn stole a series in Starkville by taking the double-header. It did not cost State the league lead, and here the Dogs are still holding-serve in a tie with newest top-spot sharer Florida.
The SEC does not do tie-breaking for the regular season championship; just for SEC Tournament seeding. Speaking of which, Cannizaro knows Hoover is on Georgia minds these days. The ‘other’ Bulldogs are 13th after eight weeks and two losses out of the 12th and final tournament slot.
But taking two from former East leader Kentucky did those Dogs a world of good. Cannizaro expects to see an opponent with renewed hope in the home dugout.
“It will be a really tough challenge. Georgia is playing really well now, they’re fighting to get into the SEC Tournament in a couple of weeks.”
State’s Bulldogs are assured of a berth, so their goals are to win-out and claim consecutive SEC Championships. This hasn’t been done here since 1971-72, regardless of championship format. A league title would almost certainly score State a NCAA Tournament number-one seeding and hosting another Regional. They were able to hold their #16 spot in the NCAA’s own posted RPI listing.
A national seed? That will take much more doing but isn’t impossible at all.
However, while Cannizaro celebrates polls…he isn’t a fan of scoreboard watching. Not must during games but during the week for that matter. A paradox?
Who cares? That big picture is shaped by daily details after all. So Cannizaro said he tells the team, often, about all they’ve done to get this far and this high. “About not wanting to start counting wins and looking around at the standings.
“Our main goal is to prepare ourselves to play well on the weekends. If we continue to do the things that made us good all year then the standings and results will work themselves out.”
NCAA.COM UPDATED RPI
1. Oregon State
2. North Carolina
3. Texas Tech
16. Mississippi State
26. South Carolina
32. Texas A&M
33. Ole Miss