April 30, 2014 11:16:02 PM
STARKVILLE -- It's now becoming an alarming trend for the home team at Dudy Noble Field.
Not enough hitting and fundamental errors leading to another head scratching result. Jacksonville State, a third place team in the Ohio Valley Conference, manufactured a 2-1 upset win Wednesday night in Starkville. The disappointing result further added to the confusing nature for a Bulldogs team that continues to fall further on the bubble for an at-large selection to a NCAA Regional.
"We're 46 games in and we're doing stuff like this," MSU coach John Cohen said after the loss. "You can't give the other team anything and we gave them bases tonight. That's unacceptable. That's my fault."
Cohen and MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson had seen enough of freshmen catcher Gavin Collins by the ninth inning after the California native allowed two passed balls and struggled to catch left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren. During the 1 1/3 innings Lindgren (3-1) was on the mound, MSU (28-18) had two passed balls and two wild pitches that led to Jacksonville State's pair of runs.
In the middle of the ninth inning, Collins was removed in favor of Zach Randolph and Lindgren subsequently greeted Randolph's arrival with his final wild pitch.
"I think it's obvious we did not catch the ball well tonight," Cohen said. "It was absolute little league stuff when a guy gets on first base and a guy can't catch a ball that's thrown in the air to you."
Wednesday marked the first time Cohen has made a defensive substitution in the middle of an inning this season as MSU ha failed to find a consistent catching option defensively in the 2014 season.
"Lindgren has power stuff but I don't know at all what happened but when you can't catch balls in the air, you are not going to win baseball games," Cohen said. "When the other team executes, that's one thing but this is elementary stuff that's going on tonight."
Jacksonville State (24-19), who was led by former MSU assistant coach Jim Case, used small ball to plate the game-winning run as designated hitter/ pitcher Ryan Sebra executed a sacrifice bunt to give the Gamecocks the final 2-1 advantage.
The victory was Jacksonville State's first ever against the Bulldogs program after receiving 11 straight defeats. Since 2005, JSU had earned only four victories against SEC programs (two vs. Auburn in 2011 and 2013; two vs. Georgia in 2009).
Lucas Laster went seven innings to give MSU a quality start on the mound but the left-hander took the no decision after failing to surrender an earned run in his 87-pitch effort.
"I think I struggled to find my release point tonight early on but once I did, I felt like I had all three of my pitches working perfectly," Laster said.
JSU junior Travis Stout picked up his 10th save of the season by picking up two strikeouts in the ninth inning against MSU seniors Brett Pirtle and Wes Rea. The only salvaging element to MSU's offensive effort Wednesday was the one swing of the bat by Alex Detz. The senior that came in hitting .233 tied for the team lead with his fourth home run to give MSU a 1-0 lead. From the third inning to Detz's at-bat in the 7th, MSu failed to get a base hit and had only three base runners. The Bulldogs were 0 for 9 with runners on base Wednesday and had 12 fly outs. Take away Detz's performance and the fourth-year players in MSU's lineup (C.T. Bradford, Wes Rea, Pirtle and Demarcus Henderson) were a collective 1 for 12 with four strikeouts.
"The eight total strikeouts tonight are disappointing but I thought we hit a bunch of balls hard and sometimes you have to make things happen," Cohen said. "We have to have some older guys step forward and do some things for this club right now that they're simply not doing."
The loss represents four defeats at Dudy Noble Field to teams outside the Top 100 in the latest ratings percentage index. MSU has now scored less than three runs in 10 games this season and have now lost two games in which they've held the opponent to no more than two runs.
"It's hard to get mad at a C.T. Bradford who smokes three balls tonight right at a defender," Cohen said. "We hit balls hard and didn't get hits tonight. The key was we didn't decide to catch baseball for whatever reason.
The Bulldogs came to the ballpark hitting just .275 as a team, the second lowest average for the program since 1994, the year most of the freshmen on the team were born.
MSU will have one practice day before traveling to Auburn for a critical series between two NCAA bubble programs as the Tigers (25-20, 9-12 in SEC) sit just one spot behind MSU at No. 42 in the latest RPI.
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