When the UCLA Bruins and Mississippi State Bulldogs lock horns tomorrow night in the 2013 College World Series finals, two starkly different athletic programs will be vying for the same goal—a first-ever NCAA championship on the baseball diamond.
Despite a combined 12 trips to Omaha prior to this year, neither the Bruins nor Bulldogs have ever had the sweet satisfaction of hoisting a national title trophy. UCLA got the closest to date, finishing runner-up to South Carolina in 2010, but this isn’t horseshoes or hand grenades. The Bruins are making their third CWS appearance in four seasons, and a championship finish is the last goal left unchecked.
However, as great as UCLA’s motivation is to get over the hump, one could argue that Mississippi State has the high card in that respect. If the Bulldogs can win two more games in this already historic season, it would mark not only their first NCAA Championship in baseball, but MSU’s first national title of any sort.
Let that simmer for a moment: Mississippi State has yet to deliver a national crown to Starkville, despite competing in intercollegiate athletics since 1895. That’s completely absurd, and as close to unbelievable as random sports trivia can get. Meanwhile, UCLA has compiled 108 NCAA team championships (and 21 other non-regulated titles) since its inception in 1919.
With no intention to slight or belittle the MSU athletics department, it’s simply shocking that a team from a storied conference like the SEC has never won it all on any playing surface. That’s not to say there haven’t been some great Bulldogs teams over the years, but they’ve just never been able to finish. And if my gut feeling is accurate, you can count on this year’s baseball squad to be well aware of that.
Mississippi State has fought its way through a bracket of favorites just like UCLA, and boasts a pitching staff with as much moxie as our beloved Bruins. The Bulldogs also play a clean brand of baseball that compliments their productive power offense quite well. Obviously it got them this far, but you can bet they’ll be aiming further and farther in their first CWS Championship Series berth in program history.
But UCLA won’t be looking to head home empty-handed either, especially being oh-so-close to national title No. 109. Two wins separate both programs from the ultimate vindication, while a pair of losses would mean an offseason of pain and regret. No matter the outcome, a new chapter of college baseball will be written this week. The Bruins and Bulldogs are both on the precipice of a perfect ending, but only one can be crowned College World Series Champion.