After opponents, times and television were announced for NCAA Regionals Monday, Mississippi State’s John Cohen had one big question which led to a great many smaller questions: how could his Bulldogs best be in position to win the Starkville Regional?
Beyond scouting the opponents – Southeast Missouri State, Cal State Fullerton and Louisiana Tech – Cohen scouted the situation itself. It was there that Cohen found advantages he could get as the No. 1 seed and the home team in the Regional, and it is why MSU switched its game time from 6:30 to 1:30 p.m. on Friday against SEMO.
To do so required direct permission from the NCAA after the field was announced and all Regionals set, so MSU quickly sent in their request once the decision was made Monday afternoon, followed by a late announcement that same day once the NCAA approved the time switch, as they have done for many host teams in past years.
I talked to Cohen this morning, as well as MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin, and while both are aware of the inconvenience for some of MSU’s fans, they felt the switch helped with MSU’s ultimate goal: win Friday and win the Regional.
“One of the things that makes MSU fans so special,” Stricklin said, “is how much they want to see the Bulldogs be successful. We understand the burden and inconvenience this puts on some of our fans, and we appreciate their understanding the desire to put our team in the most advantageous competitive situation possible.”
Talking to Cohen, the reasoning behind the switch came down to three main points.
First, by playing the early game, MSU guarantees that it will have batting practice on its own field. Playing the late game would run the risk of possibly missing that opportunity and taking away the routine and comfort the Bulldogs are used to at home. Now, Friday’s game will go, more or less, like any other game day at Dudy Noble.
Second, the switch ensures that MSU will be well-rested for Saturday and avoids the possibility of playing a doubleheader Saturday if weather turned bad Friday afternoon or night, as it is wont to do this time of year in Mississippi. If the night game Friday started late or had a weather delay, MSU could be on the field past midnight before playing again the next day. If MSU were to lose a late game in that situation, there would be less than half a day between outings with the loser’s bracket game on Saturday afternoon starting at 1:30. Now, if they win the early game Friday, they’ll get 24-plus hours of rest before the winner’s bracket game at 6:30 Saturday night.
Third, it gives MSU the chance to scout the other two opponents in person. All of State’s coaches, staff and players will be able to watch CSF and Louisiana Tech play live and in-person in the night game Friday, one or possibly both of whom MSU will have to face over the rest of the weekend.
By the time Cohen broke it all down, he saw no baseball-related reason not to make the switch. It made too much sense. The only hang-up for the coach and athletic director was, obviously, the inconvenience for the MSU fans traveling from out of town. They wouldn’t have even had to think about it, otherwise. Ultimately, however, it came down to putting MSU in the best position to accomplish its most important goal: win the Starkville Regional and host the Starkville Super Regional next weekend.
“I know how much MSU fans want to see us win,” Cohen said. “We understand the stress it may cause for some of our fans, but I appreciate how supportive the MSU family is of our program and how much they want us to be successful.”