March 15, 2013 11:41:21 PM
STARKVILLE - Mason Katz surprised even himself Friday night.
The best power hitting option for Louisiana State University stood in the batters box at Dudy Noble Field on two separate occasions there's no way he'll even get a chance to make contact.
Instead Mississippi State University pitchers served up arguably the league's most dangerous power hitter two pitches over the middle of the plate that were easily deposited over the left field wall.
Katz, who has homered six times in the last four games, had his second multi home run game in the six days in a 6-4 victory in ten innings to open up Southeastern Conference play for both teams.
"So on the first one there's an open base, two outs and a 3-1 count and I'm thinking to myself he probably doesn't want to have this be anywhere near the plate," Katz said.
Minutes after a mound meeting by MSU coach John Cohen to remind Bulldogs starting pitcher Jacob Lindgren to not let Katz beat them, in a 3-1 count with first base open Katz exploded on a changeup over the heart of the plate.
"I'm thinking right there 'just go ahead and take your walk'," Katz said of the two-run home run in the sixth inning. "I decided to sit on a off-speed pitch and he feed me a changeup that I got great contact on."
A walk is certainly something the MSU coaching staff would've happily taken in that sixth inning if given the choice.
"We had no problem with him walking there (in the sixth) but we serve him a belt-high breaking ball that left the ballpark," Cohen said.
A similar situation would come up again in the 10th inning, as LSU (17-1, 1-0) crawled back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it in the seventh inning and then Katz got another pitch he was exactly looking for.
In the 10th inning, Cohen made the decision to not go out to double check the scouting report with sophomore right-hander Will Cox and replacement catcher Nick Ammirati.
"That's my fault," Cohen said after the loss. "I should've made a trip there. There's no doubt about that. I guess the reason I didn't was I made on earlier in the game in the same exact situation and that didn't help. I'm going to wear that one because I needed to take a trip there with a new pitcher and catcher in the ball game."
Cox (2-1), who had only one other appearance in a SEC game, fed a player who has eight of LSU's 15 home runs this season a fastball that went further out of Dudy Noble Field than Katz's first effort just four innings before.
"I had all of his pitches timed in the on-deck circle and he gave me a fastball that I could handle and I lifted it pretty easily," Katz said. "The first one I had doubts but the second one I knew was long gone."
Cox, who saw his ERA climb from 1.02 to 1.93, was taken out of the rotation after getting starts in the first three four-game series weekends of the 2013 season.
With the absence of MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson Friday night due to the death of his father-in-law, Cohen assumed the responsibility of the pitching staff and left Dudy Noble Field emotionally stewing over two pitches.
"We let Katz beat us and that was not in our game plan," Cohen said."We served up their best hitter two great opportunities for him to leave the ballpark and to his
credit, he did it. Hopefully we'll execute a little bit better on the mound and defensively as well."
Before Friday night, MSU pitching had allowed three home runs in 181 innings this season. The breakdown on the mound that led to monster swings from Katz was something that Cohen said he will address with his team before they take the field Saturday (6 p.m., Comcast SportSouth).
"It's our job to make them aware of things that are good in this game and not so good so we'll do that," Cohen said. "We'll review and hopefully they're excited about getting out there and competing tomorrow."
In the early innings, it was No. 13 MSU that enjoyed the momentum after junior outfielder Hunter Renfroe hit a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Bulldogs an early lead. Before the loss on Friday night, MSU was 14-0 this season when they score first.
"I thought we made good swings and he hung a slider on me in the home run and I hit it really hard," Renfroe said.
LSU would get its revenge on Renfroe in the eighth when senior hard-throwing right-hander Joey Bourgeois (2-0) got the Bulldogs junior outfielder fooled on a breaking ball after seeing him foul off several 90+ miles-per-hour fastballs.
The top six batters in the MSU lineup, which accounted for all 10 hits, attacked strikes early in the count against LSU sophomore pitcher Aaron Nola. It was the same game plan that resulted in striking Nola for five earned runs last year in Baton Rouge, La., in his SEC debut.
C.T. Bradford quickly got out of his 1 for 22 slump by getting on base in his first three plate appearances that included a pair of singles. Bradford scored two runs and as part of a 1-2-3 combination at the top with Adam Frazier and Renfroe that ended Friday 5 for 11 with four runs and three RBIs.
"I've had a good support staff around me but it was good to finally start to get hits again after these last six and seven days," Bradford said.
MSU (18-3, 0-1) has now lost the opening game of a conference series six straight times to LSU leading to the Tigers taking the last five series' in the rivalry.
After using four different relievers, MSU must turn to junior right-hander Evan Mitchell (0-0, 2.30) to give them his quality start of the 2013 season as he'll be facing junior right-hander Ryan Eades (3-0, 1.80) who will be making his 28th career college start.
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.
3. The Rainbow and More BOOK REVIEWS