OMAHA, Neb. — The star-studded 1985 Mississippi State baseball team has cast a long shadow over every Bulldogs club that followed. Now the 2013 team is poised to do what no other Mississippi State team in any sport has done — win a national championship.
“They feel like they’re on a mission,” Bulldogs coach John Cohen said Saturday. “They feel like things are coming together for them, and they want it all.”
The Bulldogs (51-18) will be playing a UCLA team going for its first title in baseball and the Bruins’ NCAA-record 108th in a team sport when the best-of-three College World Series finals begin Monday night.
Mississippi State’s 1985 squad was talent-laden with future major-league All-Stars Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen, who led the 50-win Bulldogs to SEC regular-season and tournament championships and then to Omaha, where they won twice under Ron Polk.
Their images remain prominent around the baseball complex in Starkville, Miss., and all have sent messages to Cohen wishing the team good luck.
“You hear about Palmeiro and Brantley and those guys who were on that club, and it’s great to be in that company,” first baseman Wes Rea said. “But then again, we’re trying to leave a legacy as well.”
Mississippi State and UCLA (47-17) both went 3-0 in bracket play at the CWS, and the finals figure to be low-scoring at TD Ameritrade Park, where a strong south wind has been blowing in and offense has been at a premium.
UCLA will send junior right-hander and No. 1 starter Adam Plutko (9-3) to the mound for Game 1. Cohen was undecided on his starter.
The Bulldogs have won 10 straight one-run games, including two in the CWS, and have won 15 of 18 this season. UCLA in 17-2 in one-run games and is 30-1 in games in which it holds its opponent to two runs or fewer.
The 6-foot-5, 272-pound Rea has led the Bulldogs, going 6 for 13 with three doubles and three RBIs.
1/3 innings of shutout relief over two appearances, Chad Girodo struck out 10 in 61/3 innings of relief against Indiana, and Jonathan Holder has recorded three saves to extend his school record to 30.