Many across the college baseball world were baffled when D1Baseball came out with its preseason rankings and not a single Mississippi team was featured, but now, the publication’s managing editor has opened up on the decision.
For Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it was pretty simple – while both teams have won national championships in recent years, their lack of success in 2023 was the main reason Kendall Rogers and company decided to leave out the Rebels and Bulldogs.
“Ultimately, when you looked at Ole Miss and Mississippi State, it’s not that we don’t believe in them; it’s that they kind of have to show it,” Rogers said on a recent episode of SportsTalk Mississippi. “And when you look at both of those teams, I think Ole Miss did a really nice job in the transfer portal during the offseason… I think Mississippi State is going to knock the cover off the ball. The question for me is can the pitching staff take a big step forward.”
As for if Ole Miss or Mississippi State – who are both bringing in hefty transfer and freshman classes – can climb into the rankings with a good start to the 2024 season, Rogers predicted that both teams will be better than they were a year ago but so will the entire conference.
“I have no doubt that these teams can be better, but here’s the problem that both teams could face – both teams could get significantly better, but in terms of their standing in the conference, it might not mean a lot just because I think the SEC is going to be really, really good,” Rogers said.
More surprising than Ole Miss and Mississippi State being left out was Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles were only one game away from the College World Series last season, falling to Tennessee in the super regional round.
Rogers explained that the decision to not rank Southern Miss was tough, but it was a combination of a somewhat unproven lineup and a new coach in Christian Ostrander taking over as the head man.
“Southern Miss was a club that I thought was really close. I do think there are a lot of pieces to that team that we really liked,” Rogers said. “I think the biggest thing with Southern Miss is I always feel pretty good about them from a pitching standpoint with [Ostrander] leading the way. You know, it’s kind of funny I say that because I remember back in the day where you looked at Southern Miss and you knew they really could mash but I just don’t know if they’ll have enough on the mound. I think they’ll be fine on the mound, pretty solid offensively, but I think the biggest thing is just how he makes the transition to head coach.”
The college baseball season in Mississippi begins on Feb. 16 with Ole Miss going to Hawaii, Mississippi State hosting Air Force, and Southern Miss hosting Marist.