STARKVILLE, Miss. (MSU Athletics/WTVA) - The 2018 Mississippi State Baseball team earned the program's third-best finish in the final polls, ranking as high as fourth nationally following Thursday's conclusion of the NCAA College World Series.
Three national publications, Collegiate Baseball, D1Baseball.com and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association gave MSU their No. 4 spot.
The 2013 CWS runner-up team swept the two spot in 2013, and the 1985 Bulldogs were ranked third by Collegiate Baseball.
Baseball America and USA Today each ranked MSU sixth, while the Bulldogs finished seventh in Perfect Game's poll.
For the third consecutive season, the Bulldogs finished in the Top 15 of all of the respective polls.
The Diamond Dawgs' season ended with them being among the final four teams left in the College World Series. MSU beat Washington and North Carolina to open its campaign in Omaha, but were bested by eventual national champion Oregon State in two games.
Over the course of the season, State racked up 21 come-from-behind wins, nine walk-off victories and a 10-3 record against Top 5 opponents.
The Bulldogs were ranked as high as 12th nationally in the preseason polls. However, with a 10-10 record and 0-3 conference mark after an SEC-opening weekend sweeping by Vanderbilt, MSU was out of every poll and looking to rebound.
Despite dropping its first three SEC series, State eventually did bounce back with a weekend victory against No. 3 Ole Miss in early April.
The Bulldogs rallied the rest of the season, going on to sweep No. 3 Arkansas two weekends later, and No. 1 Florida on the final weekend of regular season play to finish 15-15 in SEC play with nine wins against Top 5 opposition, all but cementing their tournament résumé.
MSU started slow in NCAA tournament play, losing its first game of the Tallahassee Regional to three-seed Oklahoma. The Diamond Dawgs then won four-straight eliminations games to capture the regional title. State became the first program to win a regional after losing its opening game in consecutive seasons, as they had also done it in the Hattiesburg Regional in 2017.
A dramatic three-game super regional win against Vanderbilt punched State's ticket to Omaha, its first trip since 2013.
Bulldog second baseman Hunter Stovall was named to the College World Series All-Tournament team following the championship series finale after batting .353 (6-for-17) in the four games with three RBIs, a double and two runs scored.
Centerfielder Jake Mangum was MSU's offensive spark plug in 2018, starting all 68 games in the leadoff spot and collecting 101 hits, becoming the first Bulldog to collect 100 or more since Adam Frazier's 107 in 2013. His season total was the fifth best in the nation, and his 281 career hits rank sixth on State's all-time list.
On the mound, a pair of starters shined for the Diamond Dawgs. Ethan Small posted a team-best 3.20 ERA and struck out 122 batters over 101.1 innings pitched. Konnor Pilkington struck out 100-plus batters for the second-straight season, and earned a third round draft pick by the Chicago White Sox in the 2018 MLB Draft.
Small and Pilkington became the first Diamond Dawg duo to earn 100 strikeouts in a season since Hank Thoms & Matt Ginter did it in 1999. They were also just one of two SEC duos to accomplish the feat this season (Florida's Brady Singer & Jackson Kowar).
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Mississippi State In The Final Polls
Collegiate Baseball - 4
Baseball America - 6
D1Baseball.com - 4
USA Today/Coaches - 6
NCBWA - 4
Perfect Game - 7
- Diamond Dawgs collect program's third-best finish in final polls
- Diamond Dawgs sweep Hogs
- Diamond Dawgs sweep Maine
- Diamond Dawgs sweep Georgia
- Diamond Dawgs lose series finale to Vanderbilt
- Diamond Dawgs drop series finale at Arkansas
- Diamond Dawgs fall in series finale at Southern Miss
- LSU defeats Diamond Dawgs 11-2 in series finale
- Offense powers Diamond Dawgs past Nicholls 14-4
- Pilkington, Poole push Diamond Dawgs past Louisiana