Mississippi State's Hunter Stovall (Aaron Fitt)


MSU Flying High After Special Weekend


STARKVILLE, Miss. — Three moments tell the story of Mississippi State’s weekend — a very meaningful weekend that featured the highly anticipated debut of head coach Andy Cannizaro, who was welcomed by the largest opening weekend crowds in Dudy Noble Field history, more than 31,000 strong.

Moment No. 1: It’s the middle of the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon’s game between Western Illinois and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs are getting three-hit by WIU’s Ian Koch, and they are losing 5-0. There’s a big crowd, but it’s half asleep, seemingly already looking ahead to Sunday night’s daunting rematch against No. 14 Texas Tech (which beat MSU on Friday night). It looks like MSU is going to lose this game and fall to 1-2 on the weekend, and 1-3 suddenly looks like a very real possibility in light of how strong the Red Raiders have looked all weekend.

But in his short tenure as an assistant at LSU, one distinctive feature of Cannizaro’s style clearly emerged to all of us laymen watching from the stands: He likes to hold in-game team meetings, often a few feet in front of the dugout. He can get animated sometimes during those meetings, when it’s called for; other times he is more calming. But his players quite often seem to respond positively to his motivational tactics.

And that’s just what happened in that game against the Leathernecks.

“We met as a team and we just talked about not trying to do it all by yourself. It’s important to try to just bring the next guy up. Don’t look at the scoreboard, don’t play the scoreboard, the first five or six innings of that game did not go our way, we weren’t playing very well,” Cannizaro said. “But then it just became a matter of, one-on-one, battle in the box. Go. Win. Your. At-bat. That’s all I asked them to do. And all of a sudden we started stringing four, five, six, seven, eight quality at-bats together.”

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