STARKVILLE, Miss. – Call them champions.
When the dust finally settled on the final day of the regular season in the nation’s best conference, the fourth-ranked Mississippi State baseball team found itself on top.
MSU won the school’s 11th Southeastern Conference regular-season championship with a 9-4 victory against Arkansas before 8,421 cowbell-ringing fans Saturday at Dudy Noble Field.
“We talked all year about having a chip on your shoulders,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We challenged our kids to go out and get better during the summer. We had some new pieces who came in and made contributions. This has been a great evening for Mississippi State baseball.
“Mississippi State has always been a special place to me. To play for a conference championship team when I was in school and then to come back to win one as a coach is special. We still have a lot of business to take care of this year. However, this is a remarkable accomplishment.”
MSU improved to 40-14-1 overall and 21-9 in league play. Arkansas will finish 26-29 and 7-23. The Bulldogs won the conference championship by half-a-game over South Carolina and won the Western Division championship by one full game over Texas A&M.
It was the first SEC regular-season championship since the 1989 championship team, which had Cohen in the starting lineup. The Bulldogs had not won a division title under the present format.
With the title, Cohen became the second head coach in SEC history to win a conference championship at multiple SEC programs, joining former MSU head coach Ron Polk. Cohen captured a Co-SEC Championship with Kentucky in 2006. Polk captured SEC titles at Mississippi State, as well as Georgia.
MSU will be the No. 1 seed in the SEC Tournament, which begins Tuesday in Hoover, Ala. MSU will face either Kentucky or Alabama at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in the third game of the tournament’s second round.
MSU will carry an 11-game win streak to Hoover. The Bulldogs finished the regular season by winning a school-record 10 conference games, including three straight sweeps for the first time since 1989. The 21 league wins also sets a new school record.
The Bulldogs have now won 40 or more games three times under Cohen.
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