Smith on Sports: Trust factor kept MSU finding way

Danny P. Smith
Staff Writer

testThere weren’t many people outside of the Mississippi State baseball program who figured the Bulldogs had what it took to make the Southeastern Conference Tournament this year.

After three SEC series during the season, MSU only had a 2-7 record in the league.

That was in March and this is May.

The Bulldogs never lost focus during the long grind of a season and found a way to battle back.

State went on to win 13 of its next 21 conference games, worked its way even in the league at 15-15 and qualified for the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Alabama, next week.

It was the trust factor that kept the Bulldogs going when the situation was looking pretty bleak at one time.

“If there is no trust, it’s not going to happen,” MSU interim coach Gary Henderson said. “You’ve got to trust your teammates, or it’s not going to happen. If you are a coach in this league, you’ve got to know what you are doing. I think that’s pretty good at this point. You’ve got to identify what it is you need to do and be willing to take the steps and know there is a lot of failure. You’ve got to be able to temper that with the mood swings for the kids when it goes South in a short period of time because it’s going to. I think you identify what it is and if they trust you, they are going to work hard and if they see improvement, then that only strengthens the bond.”

The Bulldogs say if it had not been for the coaches this season they might not be where they are today.

MSU junior outfielder Elijah MacNamee gave much of the credit to the success of the team to Henderson, Jake Gautreau and Mike Brown.

“They are some of the best coaches I’ve ever had,” MacNamee said. “They haven’t given up on us. A lot of things were going on at the beginning, but they stuck with us the whole time and lot has to do with them.”
It has been a tremendous job by Henderson and his staff to get the Bulldogs steered back in the right direction.

Winning big games at the new Dudy Noble Field has been a regular occurrence for MSU this year, but the biggest feat came over the weekend when it swept the No. 1 Florida Gators.

The Bulldogs finished off Florida on Saturday with an impressive 13-6 victory and over the final two days of the series the Bulldogs out-hit the Gators 26-19.

All phases of the game worked for State against Florida and it showed just what the Bulldogs are capable of doing when they play up to their potential.

MSU pitcher Cole Gordon said the key for the team was to not lose focus when the 2-7 start in the conference happened.

“We knew we had talent and knew we had grit,” Gordon said. “Things just weren’t going our way and couldn’t put it together. Coach said one pitch at a time and one game at a time. We never lost focus on what our goal was.”

The Bulldogs can go over to Hoover next week, go on a run and win the SEC Tournament.

If you think that statement is a little bit crazy, maybe, but how many of you thought a sweep of Florida was possible?

Danny P. Smith is the sports editor and columnist for The Starkville Daily News. The opinions in this column are his and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SDN or its staff.