FILE - Mississippi State coach John Cohen will have to gather his team up for practice today just like he did here in the fall for the regular season finale series when Kentucky comes to Dudy Noble Field Thursday. Photo by: MSU athletics
May 16, 2012 11:13:01 AM
STARKVILLE - So....what now?
In a season where Mississippi State University is on pace to have one of its worst years of offensive production since the installment of metal bats into college baseball, Bulldogs coach John Cohen doesn't have many different answers than when the slide began a couple of months ago: youth, injuries and now a lack of confidence in what they are doing at the plate.
"It's the body of work that takes over for things and for me - this is just how I've always felt about things - the more you work on something, the more confident you are," Cohen said. "You have a group of kids that have never done it before and never played before."
After suffering a 2-0 upset loss to a University of Central Arkansas program, which is a middle-of-road Southland team, started a right-hander on the mound in his first start of the season with an earned run average nearly at 6. The result was the Bulldogs (31-21, 13-14 in Southeastern Conference) couldn't get a single runner to second base in the loss at Dudy Noble Field.
The loss to the Bears, a sixth place team in the Southland Conference, marked first time under Cohen that MSU was shutout by a non-SEC team with the last occurrence being a 6-0 loss to Samford University in 2004.
"We discussed last night not doing anything offensively (in practice Wednesday) and maybe they're just not doing anything," Cohen said.
The victory marked the second victory over a Southeastern Conference opponent in the history of the UCA program with both of them coming in the Magnolia state. UCA beat the University of Mississippi 4-3 in Oxford in 2008.
Here's some numbers that detail the problems MSU is facing offensively. Mississippi State came into the week near the bottom in the SEC in these categories:
- Tied for last in batting average (.249)
- Tied for last home runs (19)
- Last in slugging percentage (.337)
- 10th in runs scored (4.55 rpg)
- 11th in hits per game (8.02 hpg)
- 11th in total bases (563)
- 3rd most strikeouts at the plate (350)
The only two categories that MSU is near the top of the SEC in are these:
- 2nd in walks (212)
- HBPs (82)
These two categories cause the Bulldogs OBP to be 9th in the SEC at .358 instead of last as you would expect - which is closer to the bottom.
The one thing Cohen defended adamantly Wednesday in his weekly media teleconference is his coaching staff is not trying to produce robots at the plate but wants his younger guys to get comfortable in what they are doing.
"Our guidelines are very, very simple," Cohen said. "You need to get under breaking balls and get on top of the fastball. There's no arguments about that (physical stuff like where to hold your hands or where to stand in the box) because we want our kids to able to make them on their own decisions on those things. We want our older guys running their own program and part of coaching is being able to get your players to the point that they're able to coach themselves."
Clearly last night was not just an MSU problem as five SEC teams went down to inferior competition on the same night. The University of Kentucky, University of Florida, University of Mississippi, Auburn University and the University of Tennessee all lost on the road to mid-week opponents ranked out of the Top 50 in the RPI on the same
The No. 8 Wildcats (41-12) suffered just its third loss of the year in non-conference play before they arrive in Starkville, as the Wildcats dropped to 23-3 in 2012 in non-league action. Murray State used seven pitchers in the game, using a different hurler in the first six innings, including all three of its weekend starters, for the win in front of an excitable crowd at Paducah's Brooks Stadium.
The Bulldogs and Kentucky begin a series where the Wildcats could win the SEC on the road against their former coach in Cohen at 6:30 p.m. Thursday with the other two games at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday.
"It's about competing the right way and hopefully we're going to come out and do that against Kentucky," Cohen said Sunday.
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
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