Mississippi State freshman Rowdey Jordan is second on the team with a .325 batting average. He also has seven home runs and 33 RBIs. Jordan and the Bulldogs will take on Vanderbilt at 7 p.m. Friday in Game 1 of the best-of-three NCAA tournament Nashville Super Regional. Photo by: Kelly Donoho/MSU Athletic Media Relations
June 8, 2018 10:59:36 AM
NASHVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team was hammering Oklahoma in an elimination game, one that was going to force a seventh and final game of the Tallahassee Regional. Beleageured relief pitcher Cole Gordon was in the middle of the best outing of his junior season.
Yet, the attention was on a season still months away from starting. At that time, D1baseball.com's Kendall Rogers reported TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle had pulled his name from consideration for the MSU baseball coaching job.
Instances similar to this one have been frequent through MSU's season, and yet it is a season that will continue in the Nashville Super Regional beginning 7 p.m. Friday (ESPN2) against Vanderbilt (34-25). The road to this point has not been an easy one for a multitude of reasons, but MSU interim coach Gary Henderson had gotten MSU through it in an interesting way: blissful ignorance.
"You really have to ignore everything that's out there, if you're going to do a good job with these guys," Henderson said at the Tallahassee Regional. "Our players deserve the best from our coaching staff. If I'm worried about the latest rumor or Twitter or anything else that comes my way, I think that's going to compromise my ability as a leader and as a coach, and as a teacher. I think the worst thing is for the families of our coaching staff, personally, but we don't talk about it.
"There's not one player that I've talked to about it for one second. It's beyond the scope of what we're doing."
Recent days have given MSU (35-26) no break from such potential distractions, as Louisville coach Dan McDonnell and East Carolina coach Cliff Godwin both publicly removed their names from consideration for the job.
Even without specific guidance from their coach, the Bulldogs have installed their own mechanisms for ignoring the rumors.
"We really don't talk about it," pitcher JP France said. "When we start playing, nobody things about it. It'll spread around a little bit, but after that five or 10 minutes, it's out the window. Nobody really talks about it.
"I guess it's something that's not important right now, so it's nothing to focus on at the moment."
As France later admitted, the winning helps matters in that regard. It can be easy to ignore swirling rumors on the new coach when the team is sweeping the No. 1 team in the nation to secure a NCAA tournament spot and winning four straight to advance from that regional two weeks later.
The time will come for the returning roster to buy in to the approach of a new staff, be it an outside hire or its current staff without the interim tag. In any event, it's not on their minds right now; they are bought into themselves.
"Everything we want is right in front of us; all we have to do is take it," second baseman Hunter Stovall said. "I have firm belief in this ball club."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter @Brett_Hudson
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