By DANNY P. SMITH
The Mississippi State Bulldogs reached the 30-win mark in baseball Tuesday night.
That statement wouldn't have been a big deal 15, 10 or even five years ago for MSU baseball, but it's huge to consider for where it stands today.
The Bulldogs haven't been able to say they have 30 victories since the 2007 season.
After beating Mississippi Valley State 13-3 on Tuesday, MSU improved its overall record to 30-18.
Helped by the three-game sweep of Tennessee in Knoxville over the weekend, the Bulldogs assured themselves their first winning season since 2007 with seven regular season games to go.
This is a step in the right direction for a program that has prided itself in making NCAA Regionals and College World Series. The last time MSU made it to Omaha, Neb., for its eighth appearance in the CWS was - you guessed it - 2007 and finished with a 38-22 record.
If things fall into place over the next couple of weekends, it would be the first time that any of the current members of the Bulldogs have made it to the Southeastern Conference Tournament and the first time they have made it to postseason of any kind during their college careers.
It really seems the players are determined to make playing into June a part of their plan.
"At the beginning of the season, we played well and had a tough SEC start, but after losing those two games to Alabama by one run each, we got together as a team and said it's time now," said MSU starting pitcher Kendall Graveman, who matched a career-high with seven innings and seven strikeouts on Tuesday against Valley. "It has shown from then on and now we're 6-0. The sweep against Tennessee was big last weekend and we needed that. We've really come close the past two weeks. The bats have come along and we're fielding the ball well. I'd rather be hot now than the beginning of the season.
"This team believes in each other and we're going to keep that going. We've got a big (series) against Ole Miss and I think we're ready."
The Bulldogs are currently in a three-way tie for seventh place in the SEC standings with the Auburn Tigers and Ole Miss Rebels going into this weekend's action.
Only eight teams will make it to the SEC Tournament being played once again in Hoover, Ala., so that's why the three-game series with Ole Miss beginning Thursday in Oxford is so big for MSU.
Both the Rebels and Bulldogs stand at 11-13 in the conference and the deadlock will be broken as long as the weather doesn't become an issue and all three games are played.
If MSU can take two out of three games at Ole Miss and do the same against LSU at home in two weeks, that should be enough to get it to Hoover and another postseason destination.
That would be a nice reward for the Bulldogs and coach John Cohen, who have worked hard to get where they are and deserve success.
Are things perfect at MSU? No.
There are still times when the Bulldogs leave runners on base offensively in key moments of the game; there are times when the pitchers are not as sharp as they should be; and an error gets committed defensively at bad times.
Even though MSU does struggle, the play is much improved than the last couple of years under Cohen.
Things are still not as good as they could be for the Bulldogs, but they are much better than they were.
We'll see how things work out over the next few weeks.
Danny P. Smith is 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 Daily News or its staff.