The most successful season in Mississippi State athletics history was celebrated Thursday [June 27] as Bulldog fans flocked to Dudy Noble Field to honor the Diamond Dogs.
The festivities came at the close of MSU's advancement into the finals of the College World Series for the first time. MSU President Mark E. Keenum, Athletics Director Scott Stricklin, "Voice of the Diamond Dogs" Jim Ellis and Head Coach John Cohen all spoke during the event. The team also presented the National Finalist trophy, along with a Bench Mobb hat, to Keenum.
"I can't find the words to tell you how proud I am of our players, our coaches, our students and alumni, and all of our fans across the country and around the world," Keenum said. "This season has been an experience for players and fans alike that we will cherish forever."
Although MSU fell to UCLA in the two-game series, Bulldog fans packed Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park Monday and Tuesday. Crowd numbers reached a record-breaking 27,127.
Team co-captains Wes Rea, of Gulfport, and Kendall Graveman, of Alexander City, Ala., credited the fans with making MSU such a special place.
"You were with us in February in 26 degree weather and stayed with us all the way to Omaha," Rea said. "Thank you for helping put MSU on the map this year."
The team won 51 games throughout the season" the second-highest total since the baseball program began at the university. At one point, the Bulldogs held a 17-game winning streak and never lost more than three games in a row. The team turned 80 double plays, an MSU record and the second-highest total in the country this year. The pitchers also threw an SEC-high 588 strikeouts this year.
"We became, in the second half of the season, a force to be reckoned with," Ellis said. "It was a great ride."
These accomplishments were made while the Bulldogs faced the second-toughest schedule in the nation, and also while maintaining a spring semester GPA of 3.38. More than two-thirds of the team's members had a GPA of 3.0 or better. Senior infielder and mathematics major Sam Frost, of Hoover, Ala., was named 2013's SEC Scholar Athlete of the Year for baseball.
Winners on and off the field, four players were named to the all-tournament team, the most in the university's nine appearances at the College World Series.
"I feel like a proud parent today, because look at what these kids have made for me and you," Cohen said.
The head coach played in the CWS for the Bulldogs in 1989 and 1990, making him one of only a handful of individuals to both play for and coach his alma mater in the series. The university's baseball teams have reached the 50-win mark four times and Cohen was associated with three of the four as a player or coach, including 1989's record 54 wins.
Stricklin summed up the spirit of the evening with this:
"We are back. We are back to going to (the SEC tournament) in Hoover. We are back to playing in the super regionals. And we are going back to Omaha."