Originally created 05/28/98

Mississippi St. survives close calls to make CWS



JACKSON, Miss. -- Mississippi State has had plenty of close calls this season.

The Bulldogs (41-21) have been involved in 25 games decided by just one or two runs this season. But when they were struggling in mid-April, they were 8-9 in such games, including two one-run losses at Florida.

State is 7-1 in close games since, including three one-run wins and a one-run loss in the NCAA Central Regional last week, to earn its second straight College World Series appearance.

"Those four regional games were nail-biting, one-run games that open the door to put us in the championship game," Mississippi State coach Pat McMahon said.

"With our club understanding and feeling good in close games, you love close games," he said. "The little things become magnified. One pitch, one swing, one completed play. They all factor in so much."

The Bulldogs' 11-5 victory against host Texas A&M in the Central Regional championship game was a romp, considering that their other victories in the regional were 7-6 against Pac-10 champion Washington, 15-14 against top-seeded Rice and 10-9 against the Aggies, who had earlier beaten the Bulldogs 4-3.

For a team that once appeared in jeopardy of even making the Southeastern Conference tournament, and then likely got into the 48-team NCAA field only after a record seven SEC teams were selected, the Bulldogs already have accomplished more than most people expected.

"Nobody expected us to get to a regional, but I hope we're peaking at the right time," said Brian Wiese, who at .424 is the first .400 hitter at Mississippi State since Will Clark in 1985.

Mississippi State, which plays SEC foe Florida in its College World Series opener Saturday night, has won 18 of its past 25 games. But the Bulldogs have struggled against their opening opponent.

Florida, the No. 1 seed in the CWS, swept a three-game series in March against Mississippi State in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators won the opener 14-8 before a pair of 6-5 victories.