For the 11th time, Mississippi State reached the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, the Holy Grail of college baseball.
Also, for the 11th time, the Bulldogs are coming home without that elusive national championship.
The sting of that unfulfilled dream was likely made shaper by the manner in which MSU made its premature exit: losing a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning to fall to Louisville, 4-3, Thursday night.
For Bulldog coaches, players and fans, the disappointment lingers today, but should quickly pass.
When the full measure of what this team has achieved is taken into account, the disappointing turn of events in Omaha will be viewed in their proper perspective.
In truth, the 2019 season was more than could be reasonably expected, if not reasonably hoped for.
It’s worth remembering that prior to the season, MSU was bringing in its fourth coach in as many years with substantial holes to fill from a 2018 team that came to within one win of reaching the College World Series championship series.
Among Southeastern Conference coaches, the Bulldogs were predicted to finish sixth in the seven-team SEC West.
Instead, MSU finished tied for first in the SEC and it’s first-year coach, Chris Lemonis, won more games (52) in his first season than any of the previous coaches at State, including the legendary Ron Polk.
The season also will be remembered for the special players who wore the Maroon and White, chief among them Jake Mangum, whose four-year career at State is unparalleled and not likely to be surpassed.
In Thursday’s game, Mangum collected his 108th hit of the season, breaking the program’s single-season hits record. It was also his 384th hit in a Bulldog uniform, the most ever in the SEC and fourth-most ever in college baseball.
Already, there is talk that someday a statue of Mangum will join those of Bulldog legends Will Clark and Rafael Palmeiro that greets patrons at the entrance of Dudy Noble Field.
Meanwhile, pitcher Ethan Small was chosen as the national pitcher of the year while freshman JT Ginn was chosen freshman pitcher of the year.
The team, while again falling short of its ultimate goal, will be remembered among MSU’s greatest teams.
Naturally, the attention will soon turn to next year. The hunger for a championship remains unsated.
While the Bulldogs have said goodbye to many of their best players, a good nucleus returns, and Lemonis, who was hired in part for his reputation as a recruiter, will add players to fuel another championship run.
As disappointing as the end of the 2019 season may be, there remains a conviction that winning a national championship is not a matter of “if,” but of “when.”
The spirits today are low, but remain unbroken.