It's hard to figure out exactly what Mississippi State did wrong in this game, something that became increasingly clear as John Cohen and three of his players struggled to explain exactly how they lost in the press conference that followed UCLA's 3-1 win in Game 1 of the College World Series Finals. After a rocky start by Trevor Fitts, Chad Girodo came in and pitched 7.2 nearly flawless innings, scattering three hits over that time frame.
And Mississippi State hit a few balls right on the screws that just happened to go either right toward a UCLA player or close enough for a great play by Eric Filia. And that latter smash, by Nick Ammirati, probably would have been a home run in almost any other college park -- but that's a story for another day.
There was an element of it that seemed to be bad luck. Both teams made an error, but Mississippi State's miscue led to the two unearned runs that decided the game. And on and on. "That’s just how the game works," Cohen said.
Part of that, UCLA's defenders would say, is because that's how the Bruins play baseball. Not unlike some football teams we see around the SEC from time to time, UCLA is perfectly content to drag you into the muck and then win in part because they're more used to playing in it. The Bruins don't care if the game is flashy; they just care about whether they win.
But the beauty of the baseball tournament is that no team is out after one loss. Mississippi State still has a chance to come back in Game 2 and win it to force a winner-take-all final game. It's not unheard of; in fact, four of the 10 College World Series finals under the current format have gone to three games, and the team that lost the first game has won two of those. Those are still pretty long odds, but who said that Mississippi State can't get lucky as well?