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Even in defeat, MSU has best season in school history

 

Mississippi State University baseball player Ross Mitchell, right, consoles Kendall Graveman during the Bulldogs’ 8-0 loss to UCLA Tuesday. The loss ended MSU’s season and gave the national championship to the Bruins, who swept the best-of-three title series. The MSU baseball team is expected to arrive home late Wednesday. A Welcome Back celebration is set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at Dudy Noble Field. Admission is free for this event. Complete coverage of Tuesday’ game begins on 1B.

Mississippi State University baseball player Ross Mitchell, right, consoles Kendall Graveman during the Bulldogs’ 8-0 loss to UCLA Tuesday. The loss ended MSU’s season and gave the national championship to the Bruins, who swept the best-of-three title series. The MSU baseball team is expected to arrive home late Wednesday. A Welcome Back celebration is set for 7 p.m. Thursday night at Dudy Noble Field. Admission is free for this event. Complete coverage of Tuesday’ game begins on 1B. Photo by: Micah Green/Dispatch Staff

 

Scott Walters

 

OMAHA, Neb. -- While the season was spectacular, the ending was not for the Mississippi State University baseball team Tuesday night. 

 

Playing for a team sport national championship for the first time in school history, the magic ran out as MSU dropped an 8-0 decision to UCLA in the final game of the College World Series championship series. 

 

The TD Ameritrade Park record crowd of 27,127 was full of Maroon, but it was not enough to spark the Bulldogs' offense. MSU managed one run in 18 innings against UCLA, also losing 3-1 in the series opener Monday night. The Bruins allowed four runs in five tournament victories and finished with a team earned run average of 0.80. 

 

"We knocked on the door," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "UCLA knocked on the door previously and then busted it down. I am really proud of these players. They worked real hard to get here. Many of these players came here when the program was not in good condition. 

 

"These kids came here off a 23-win season. They brought us all the way to the mountain top. We are disappointed in today and yesterday, but certainly not our body of work for the season. I am so proud of these kids." 

 

UCLA won its 109th national championship but first in baseball. The Bruins lost the 2010 national championship series to South Carolina. 

 

MSU finishes the season at 51-20 overall. The Bulldogs finished the season with the second most wins in program history. MSU played 71 games this season, matching a school record. 

 

"You can't say thank you enough for what all happened to this team," MSU junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe said. "This is the closest team I have ever been around. Our fan support is like no other team in the country. We have a lot of special memories. It was an incredible run." 

 

MSU won its first three games in Omaha for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs knocked off Oregon State twice and Indiana to breeze to the Bracket One championship. The good fortune ran out in the championship series, as the Bulldogs offense fizzled.  

 

"We really didn't have any answers at the plate," MSU shortstop Adam Frazier said. "It is disappointing to the end the season with two losses where we didn't play very well." 

 

UCLA junior right-hander Nick Vander Tuig (14-4) pitched eight innings, allowing five hits, with one walk and six strikeouts. Sophomore right-hander David Berg made his record-setting 51st appearance of the season in the ninth inning, as the duo combined to shut out the Bulldogs for only the second time this season. 

 

"We weren't very disciplined at the plate like we had been earlier in the World Series," Frazier said. "Give UCLA credit. They really made the pitches. They controlled the games and got their job done. We didn't make real good adjustments after the first game and it was frustrating to see the season end like this." 

 

Despite a fifth-place finish in the Southeastern Conference regular season standings, the Bulldogs won the Starkville Regional and Charlottesville, Va., Super Regional to advance to the College World Series for a ninth time, the first time in Cohen's five seasons as coach. The Bulldogs last played in the CWS in 2007. 

 

By reaching the title series, the Southeastern Conference has had a participant in the finals for six straight seasons now. National championships during that run included South Carolina twice and LSU once. 

 

"I want to thank the Lord for putting us in a position to get here," MSU senior pitcher Kendall Graveman said. "I want to thank Omaha for opening their arms to us. We are disappointed in the outcome but we are proud of the season. We did something that no other Mississippi State baseball team has done. 

 

"We came with the goal of making Omaha. Once you make Omaha, you have the new goal of wanting to win the national championship. We were right there in a position to do just that but failed to get it done." 

 

For Cohen, the failure he believes will be short-lived. 

 

"We came here to win the national championship," Cohen said. "We are going to come back and win this thing. That is why we are in the business. You come here to win. We didn't get it done. We will come back soon and get it done."

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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