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Bulldogs make fourth straight baseball regional appearance

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE-- Been there, done that.  

 

This is the attitude of the Mississippi State players when they saw their name pop up during the NCAA baseball tournament selection show Monday.  

 

MSU is now under the attitude of head coach John Cohen that regional trips are expected and anything less is seen as a complete failure.  

 

"I think certainly that's our expectation level but you have to win it," Cohen said Monday. "I think at some point and time you turn a corner and say getting there is nice. Our kids are really focused on winning (on a consistent basis). That's the next step." 

 

MSU will be going to a new destination for its 34th NCAA tournament appearance. The Bulldogs (37-22) were selected to play in the 2014 NCAA Lafayette Regional on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. MSU's first game will be 1 p.m. Friday against Mountain West Conference tournament champion San Diego State (42-19). 

 

"I'm pretty familiar with Lafayette's facility, town and the program having lived right next to there for awhile," Cohen said referencing his head coaching period at Northwestern State in Natchitoches, Louisiana from 1998-2001. 

 

Louisiana-Lafayette (53-7) will play Southwest Athletic Conference tournament champion Jackson State (31-23) at 6 p.m. Friday. Tne entire regional will be broadcast on ESPN3.  

 

The Bulldogs were sent to a regional with the No. 6 national seed and the last time that occurred was 2012 when a MSU club, which had just won the Southeastern Conference tournament, went 1-2 in the Tallahassee Regional after two losses to mid-major Samford.  

 

"We feel confident in what we've done in the past and what we've done right now that we can compete against anybody in the country if we got out there and play hard," MSU senior outfielder C.T. Bradford said. "It's huge. We started this season and had some bumps in the road but we're excited about the postseason position we are in right now." 

 

A record number of 10 Southeastern Conference opponents were selected for the 64-team field and five SEC schools were selected as host sites for the regional round. The Lafayette Regional was paired opposite the Oxford Regional, to be hosted by Ole Miss, as the Rebels will be hosting a regional for the first time in five years.  

 

San Diego State is coming into the event without their head coach. Former Major League Hall of Fame selection Tony Gwynn was placed on medical leave March 24 to deal with his ongoing medical issues. SDSU officials confirmed to The Dispatch Gwynn would be out of action for the rest of the 2014 season. The former San Diego Padres outfielder had surgery to remove cancerous lymph nodes and tumors from his salivary glands in August 2010 and had surgery to remove a malignant tumor from the inside of his right cheek in February 2012. He has stated in the past that he believes the cancer was caused by years of chewing tobacco. 

 

The Aztecs was a projected bubble selection for a NCAA Regional before winning back-to-back games against UNLV to ensure their program's 11th regional appearance. SDSU hasn't played a NCAA tournament baseball game outside of the state of California since 1986 when they played in the Central Regional in Austin, Texas.  

 

SDSU and MSU have never faced each other in any of the three major revenue producing sports (football, men's basketball or baseball). MSU split a two-game set vs. La-Lafayette in 1991 at Dudy Noble when the Ragin Cajuns were referred to as Southwestern Louisiana.  

 

Louisiana-Lafayette earned a national seed for the first time in program history and are playing host to a regional for the second time in school history, with the first ever regional host coming in 2000. The Ragin' Cajuns' home ballpark, M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field, holds a capacity of 3,755. The Louisiana-Lafayette ticket office is providing tickets to its season ticket holders first. Ragin Cajun Foundations members will have second priority. General admission requests will be fulfilled after. 

 

Fans interested in tickets can call the UL-Lafayette box office at (337) 265-2100. The all tournament pass costs $55.50. Mississippi State will not have any tickets through its box office. 

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.

 

 

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