The Mississippi State Bulldogs might be down in the 2013 College World Series—but they certainly aren't out.
The Bulldogs fell to the UCLA Bruins in Game 1 of the CWS championship series, 3-1, on Monday to put Mississippi State's back against the wall in the tournament's best-of-three format. However, this is a Bulldogs team that is more than capable of mounting a comeback.
After all, like the Bruins, the Bulldogs made it to the finals by going undefeated in Omaha.
Recovering from their first loss since June 2 won't be an easy task, but as the tournament has shown, these games can be turned on their head at any moment.
Here then are the keys for Bulldogs to get back on track against the Bruins.
Stronger Start From The Lineup
UCLA's pitching staff has been awesome throughout its stay at Omaha. The Bruins have only allowed just one run in each of their four games.
If Mississippi State is going to put more runs on the board than it did in Game 1, it's going to have to get much more aggressive at the plate. As Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game USA, pointed out, UCLA pitcher Adam Plutko retired the first 10 batters in the Bulldogs' lineup before giving up a single.
Once Mississippi State got things going, the opportunities started to come. The Bulldogs loaded the bases in the same inning, but a flyout ended the threat.
If the Bulldogs go through the first three innings without at least making the Bruins' pitchers work to get out of some jams, Mississippi State's likelihood of completing its comeback won't be good.
Hunter Renfroe Must Step Up
Mississippi State will have to step up as a team, and Hunter Renfroe has to lead the way.
Renfroe, who was a first-round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, is the best bat in Mississippi State's lineup, but he just couldn't get things going at the plate in Game 1. He reached base when he was hit by a pitch, but struck out twice.
As Rogers pointed out, Plutko was clearly getting the better of him:
Renfroe is hitting .351 on the season and is one of the best hitters in the nation. He has to come alive in Game 2 if the Bulldogs are to win.
Pitching and Defense Must Be Near-Perfect
Even with a more aggressive lineup and Renfroe back to his usual stuff, the Bulldogs can only hope for so much offense with their lineup.
To beat the Bruins, teams have to pitch well and minimize mistakes on the field.
The Bruins scored three runs against the Bulldogs in Game 1, but two of those came off of a throwing error by catcher Nick Ammirati. As Jason Caldwell of AUTigers points out, the Bruins are masterful at capitalizing on opponents' mistakes:
It's just like clockwork for UCLA. Take advantage of another mistake to score runs. 3-0 in that ball park is a big lead.— Jason Caldwell (@ITATJason) June 25, 2013
The Bruins really don't do anything too flashy. They play consistent, fundamental baseball and don't beat themselves. The Bulldogs will have to do the same to turn things around.