Mississippi State is off to a flying start on the road to Omaha, with an SEC Baseball Tournament championship firmly in hand.
The 24th-ranked Bulldogs (according to Baseball America) battled their way through the toughest conference tourney in college baseball, beating Arkansas, LSU and Kentucky (twice) before vanquishing a surprising Vanderbilt squad in the final on Sunday, 3-0.
The win gives MSU its seventh conference tournament title and first since 2005, securing a second consecutive berth in the Big Baseball Dance for the Starkville squad.
A remarkable accomplishment in itself, considering that coaches in the SEC picked the Bulldogs to finish fifth in the SEC West coming into the season.
Shortstop Adam Frazier sewed up Tournament MVP honors by driving home one run and scoring another, but the real story of the title game was MSU's pitching staff. Four Diamond Dogs combined for just the second championship game shutout since the current format was instituted 15 years ago.
The first came just last year, with Florida doing the honors against Vandy, ironically enough.
Redshirt freshman Ross Mitchell threw five-plus scoreless innings in relief of Brandon Woodruff before handing the ball off to Caleb Reed and Chris Stratton in the ninth to close out what was a spectacular team effort. Just the sort of team effort that portends a prolific run through the NCAA Tournament on the way to the College World Series for John Cohen's club.
The Bulldogs have won eight of their last nine games, all against ranked teams, the likes of which they'll see in the NCAA Regionals and beyond.
If they can continue to get the sort of strong pitching and timely hitting that carried them to the SEC title, then the Diamond Dogs may well be on their way to things even bigger and better than anything they accomplished this week at Regions Field in Hoover, Alabama.
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