Two different Mississippi four-year colleges have won a national championship in baseball.
William Carey College (now WCU) won the NAIA title in 1969, and Delta State captured the NCAA Division II crown in 2004.
The Magnolia State’s Big 3 NCAA Division I schools, their strong traditions notwithstanding, have never brought home that kind of hardware.
The closest any has come was in 1985, when Mississippi State finished tied for third in the College World Series. That team, which won 50 games, was arguably State’s finest; it included Will Clark, Rafael Palmeiro, Jeff Brantley and Bobby Thigpen, all future major league stars.
Southern Miss had its streak of NCAA postseason appearances snapped this year at nine, but State and Ole Miss will renew their quest for a national championship in NCAA regionals that start on Friday.
The Rebels haven’t been to Omaha for the CWS since 1972, and to get there this year, they’ll first have to negotiate a regional in College Station, Texas, that includes host Texas A&M, TCU and Dayton.
State’s task might be tougher. At Tallahassee, Fla., the Bulldogs are lumped in with No. 3 national seed Florida State, Conference USA champ Alabama-Birmingham and unsung but unquestionably dangerous Samford.
And yet, State rode its stellar pitching to an SEC Tournament title, which is a tougher row to hoe than any regional. Eight SEC teams made the NCAAs.
Mississippi’s best chance at a national crown this year might be Delta State, which is 2-0 in the ongoing D-II CWS in Cary, N.C.
But both State and Ole Miss rate a fighting chance. Both clubs are somewhat offensively challenged, but both have pitching.
For the Bulldogs, it starts with ace Chris Stratton and ends with Jonathan Holder, the freshman sensation closer. Ole Miss features Bobby Wahl at the top of its rotation and record-setting Brett Huber as the last line of defense in the bullpen.
This much is for sure: It takes strong arms to lift a championship trophy.