We’re days away from first pitch in Omaha with 3 SEC teams still alive. In round one, Mississippi State faces three-seed Washington, Florida gets Texas Tech, and Arkansas renews their rivalry with Texas. As teams begin to depart for the midwest, here are questions each are facing right now.
1. What does Mississippi State do about Gary Henderson?
Hendo has been a godsend for this program in 2018. The Bulldogs could have folded multiple times this season but this team kept battling back. Coach Henderson and his staff deserve a lot of credit for that. But does it mean State should hire him full-time?
Heading into a new $55 million stadium, AD John Cohen has to get this right. The last time Cohen made a hire in baseball, he went to an assistant with very little coaching pedigree. Henderson now has 9 years as a head coach in the SEC. Cohen has a lot more options this time around, too.
Hopefully State does the right thing and gives Henderson a make-right payment for working as head coach this year and then gives him every incentive Cannizaro would have made for this run to Omaha.
Then, Cohen should treat Henderson the same as any other candidate. Weigh what he’s done to this point, add in his steadying influence this year, and how he think Henderson can recruit going forward against all other potential candidates.
Gary Henderson deserves a head coaching job just not necessarily State’s. And I say that as a huge fan of what he’s accomplished.
2. Can Florida continue to squeeze out wins like this?
Florida has come back to earth since clinching the SEC regular season title against UGA in early May. The Gators have fallen apart in all 3 phases of the game. In 14 games since clinching, the Florida has:
- only 1 game with more than 10 hits (they had 21 such games in the previous 55 on the schedule);
- just a .228 team BA (after hitting .290 previously);
- given up 59 earned runs (4.21 ERA) after a 3.17 ERA through the UGA series; and
- committed 18 errors (1.29 per game) vs. .69 errors per game previously. They’ve practically doubled their errors per game.
The errors have led to 21 unearned runs in 14 games – over half of the unearned runs UF has given up this season. That is crazy.
If they hit, pitch, and field the way they’ve played since the Mississippi State series, I think they’ll head home early from Omaha. To start, they’ve got to get the fielding corrected ASAP.
3. Can Arkansas leave friendly Baum Stadium and put together a string of wins?
Arkansas was an impressive 35-4 at Baum Stadium this year – the most home wins in the country. But the Omahogs were just 6-12 on the road and a combined 9-14 in all games away from home. Arkansas was 2-1 in Hoover (losing a pitcher’s duel to LSU and Zach Hess).
Can the Hogs overcome cavernous TD Ameritrade? Can Blaine Knight get to 13-0 and potentially 14-0, capping perhaps the greatest collegiate pitching season of all-time?