This week the College World Series begins without Mississippi State being a part of the festivities.
It was certainly not the way the Bulldogs wanted to end the season, but the late run of 2012 has placed high expectations on the program and MSU coach John Cohen wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That is exactly what we want,” said Cohen on having expectations after State’s 40-win season. “It’s hard to have that conversation after 23-33, but that is exactly what you want. You want your players talking about it. You want your fan base talking about it.”
Cohen has a vision for the Bulldogs and he plans on making it a reality by simply pushing forward.
“I want us to be the very, very best we can be now and not look in the rear-view mirror,” Cohen said. “When you constantly look in the rear-view mirror of what it was, you’re making a huge mistake.”
At the end of the day, Cohen isn’t happy the season is over, but is excited about where the program is.
“I’m really pleased where we are, especially in the area of developing arms and the area of evolution of our players really buying-in and knowing we’re just right on the edge of being able to do something special," Cohen said.
State escapes MLB Draft
Each year Cohen has to hold his breath, hoping his roster isn’t decimated by the Major League Baseball Draft.
This is due to the fact that the draft can quickly turn a promising team in to a rebuilding project in the matter of a couple of days.
MSU pitchers Chris Stratton, Nick Routt, and Kendall Graveman were all taken off the current roster and Will DuPont is a Bulldog signee who was drafted.
“As of right now, we feel pretty good about it,” said Cohen. “DuPont is obviously an area of concern, but we’re optimistic we’re still going to get him. Anything can change.
“Certainly it’s an honor for Kendall to get drafted but we’re very hopeful we’re going to get him back. Obviously that would be someone very difficult to replace, but the fact that Kendall is such a huge part of our program from a leadership perspective, and the fact he is an engineering major which in most cases is a five-year program. We’re very optimistic about him also.”
With Stratton going in the first round with the 20th overall selection to the San Francisco Giants, it is a simple decision for the Bulldog ace. As for Routt, Cohen is happy for his opportunity.
“We’re really pleased for Nick Routt," Cohen said. "He just got his degree. The evolution of his changeup and velocity coming back throughout the year, I think he can pitch for a long time in the minor leagues.”
Bulldogs get time to heal
There's no secret of how much MSU faced the injury bug during the season.
A rash of injuries plagued the team, but now the Bulldogs have the time to return to full strength.
“Mitch Slauter is going to have a little procedure done on his knee, which we feel is not going to be a big, big deal,” said Cohen. “We feel it's going to prohibit him from probably playing summer baseball. We’ll see in a month where he is and if he’s doing well, we'll send him to the Cape.”
Third baseman Daryl Norris, will have his knee re-examined in order to determine the direction of his summer rehab.
Like Norris, first baseman Wes Rea will be re-examined as well. His shoulder continues to give the slugger discomfort and Dr. Rusty Linton will continue to monitor his progress.
“Wes is really sick and tired of having to deal with it," Cohen said. "He’ll do whatever it takes to get that fixed."
C.T. Bradford will obviously be in recovery mode this summer after having shoulder surgery in April.
Graveman continues to rehab from his groin injury that bothered him over the final month of the season. No surgery appears to be needed at this time.
MSU's Boys of Summer
Mississippi State is set for summer league baseball all across the globe, headlined by shortstop Adam Frazier joining Team USA.
Roughly 20 Bulldogs have their summer assignments which is something Cohen sees as vital for their continued improvement.
“It’s really important for kids to have these summer experiences,” Cohen said. “I remember Pat McMahon pulling me into his office and telling me you’re going to play in Alaska; you’re going to be 2,000 miles from home; and it’s going to be a different culture. No matter what happens, you’re going to stick it out because you represent Mississippi State. It doesn’t matter if you get homesick and it doesn’t matter if you’re not playing well, you are going to stay there and represent all of us the right way.”
Even though the players will play at great distances, Cohen plans on staying in touch and may catch a game or two in person.
“Yeah, I’m hopeful I am going to get to go up to the Cape and see those guys,” Cohen said. “It’s really neat to evaluate your kids when they are playing with other kids and get the opportunity to kind of run their own program for the course of the summer.”