It's Been An Up and Down Season For Jones

Coming into this season, Mississippi State senior first baseman Brad Jones had high hopes for his team. And it appeared things were going exactly as hoped. The Diamond Dogs started the season off with an 18-0 record and were ranked No. 1 in the nation for a couple of weeks. Then the wheels fell off for both he and his team.

"We feel pretty fortunate right now," said Brad, after learning that his team had earned a spot in the upcoming NCAA Baseball Regional at Clemson, South Carolina despite not making the SEC Tournament and going 17-21 since the 18-0 start.

But he also understands a strong case could be made for his team making the NCAA Regionals.

"We had a lot of one-run and two-run game losses. We never really got blown out except for a handful of games," said Brad Jones. "We were really five or six (wins) away from having an unbelievable season and being right there among the national top seeds. We had a pretty solid non-conference schedule and won the majority of those. That's what (the NCAA Selection Committee) looks at."

And he's right in every case.

Of his team's 21 losses, 12 were by two runs or less. Ten of the 12 were against teams that were chosen as No. 1 or 2 seeds in the NCAA Regionals. Win six of those and their record goes to 41-15, which would be a better overall record than three of the national seeds. Non-conference-wise his team was 23-4. Add all those factors together and MSU definitely had a strong case.

But, those are all ifs. And ifs don't win games. The reality is this MSU team had to play a waiting game as far as making the NCAA Regionals after failing to make the SEC Baseball Tournament. And it was a very frustrating game to play. Just as frustrating as this season has been for Brad and his teammates.

"It really frustrates me, especially because this year has been like an emotional roller-coaster. We started off so hot and hopes were so high," said the veteran. "When we went 18-0 (to start the season), we had little chink hits falling in, we had other people making errors that probably gave us some runs and helped us win a couple of games. Then, it seemed like the tide turned completely on us and nothing was going right for us. So, this was probably the most disappointing year just because we were so hot, then everything seems to have fallen apart."

And while things turned on the team as a whole after the 18-0 start, it also turned on him personally about that same time due to a wrist injury that hampered him for the remainder of the season and will require surgery once the season is complete.

"Ever since I was out for that week (due to the injury) and got the cortisone shot and came back against Alabama's (lefthanded pitcher) Wade LaBlanc, I haven't gotten my timing back," said Brad, who hit .273 prior to the injury and .218 afterwards. "And I haven't really been able to figure it out. I've had a couple of good games during that time, but nothing consistent."

Because of that, the Bulldog coaches were finally left with no other option but to replace him in the lineup with someone that was more consistent. It was a difficult decision to make, but one even Brad, the team player that he is, understood and accepted.

"The reason I'm not playing is just because I'm not hitting the ball and (Brian) LaNinfa is doing a great job hitting," said Brad, a lifetime .300 hitter coming into the season. "I'm trying to do my part on the bench and whenever they call on me, I'll be ready. I'm cheering my team on as hard as anybody else and I want us to keep playing."

Which they obviously will. And he's optimistic the time off has helped rejuvenate his team and will allow them to regain that confidence they had earlier in the season.

"I think this week washed away some of the hard losses we've had the past few weeks," said the team co-captain. "It also probably helped the coaches a little bit because they have been under a lot of pressure. Hopefully, they were able to relax the past week and replenish their thoughts. Everybody is so excited right now. Hopefully that will carry over."

While he's happy his team will continue their season, he does have one major disappointment.

"It's disappointing that we can't play in front of our home crowd. There's not much else to say.......," said Brad, possibly realizing that he has played his last game on Dudy Noble Field.

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the Dawgs' Bite, Powered by website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by emailing

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