April 11, 2011 9:41:00 AM
STARKVILLE -- The Mississippi State baseball team''s struggles with runners in scoring position continued Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the No. 4 University of Florida in the final game of a three-game Southeastern Conference series.
MSU (21-11, 5-7 SEC) was 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position Sunday, and 3-for-21 for the weekend.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, the Bulldogs had the bases with one out, but Wes Thigpen and CT Bradford flew out, preventing MSU from capitalizing on two pitching changes and an error that gave it extra base and two singles.
"Every club in our league is gonna have an inning like they just had," MSU coach John Cohen said. "There''s a certain degree of opportunism that has to happen. It didn''t happen for us as much today as we would have liked."
Cohen lamented the lackluster play from his seniors, who accounted for six of the team''s eight hits. But third baseman Jarrod Parks dropped a softly hit fly ball in foul territory and shortstop Jonathan Ogden committed two errors.
Ogden''s second error was the most costly. He bobbled a routine groundball that if fielded and flipped to second base could have preserved a 1-1 tie.
Florida''s No. 3 hitter Preston Tucker took advantage, slapping a two-run single to give the Gators (26-7, 9-3) their first lead.
The ill-timed miscue spoiled a solid relief outing for sophomore left-hander Luis Pollorena, who entered in the sixth for starting pitcher Nick Routt. Pollorena took Florida down in order in the sixth and retired the first two he faced in the seventh before giving up a single and walk prior to Ogden''s error.
"It got underneath me and I just didn''t get a good grip on it," Ogden said. "I couldn''t get the ball out of my glove. I didn''t find my comfort zone where I''m normally at out there. We''ll get that fixed."
Cohen said it was the "roughest" day his seniors have had this season.
"I love them. They work hard and they''re great kids, but they didn''t have a good day today," Cohen said. "We did a lot of average things wrong: We dropped popups, average groundballs."
The Bulldogs wasted a quality start from Routt, who up until Sunday had been limited to 65-70 pitches while working back from elbow surgery. On Sunday, Routt had his longest outing (88 pitches) since pitching eight innings against Southeast Louisiana in February 2010. He allowed one earned run on six hits in five innings and struck out five and walked one. More importantly, he threw 63 strikes.
Routt worked mainly off his fastball, relying on his ability to locate it left to right and top to bottom in the strike zone.
"He threw it in the strike zone, which is what we needed after yesterday (an 18-0 loss)," Cohen said.
Florida freshman starter Karston Whitson, a 2010 first-round MLB draft pick who turned down a seven-figure pro contract to go to Florida, hadn''t been past the sixth inning all season before Sunday.
Cohen said the Bulldogs tried to ring up his pitch count early but struggled to do so by swinging at so many pitches outside the zone.
Whitson pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up just one earned run on five hits. He struck out three and walked two.
MSU came close to damaging Whitson''s start in the second when it loaded the bases on singles from Ogden and Adam Frazier and a walk to Shepherd. Catcher Wes Thigpen singled to drive in one run, which could have been two if not for a close call at the plate. Florida catcher Mike Zunino was seven to eight feet away from the plate, standing on the base line when Frazier ran into him. At the time of contact, Zunino didn''t appear to have the ball, but Frazier was called out and MSU had to settle for the 1-0 lead.
In the last five innings, MSU went down in order twice, had runners on the corners in the fifth and eighth, and had the bases loaded with one out in the ninth.
Failing to drive in runs -- an area Cohen addressed earlier in the week after Georgia swept it in a three-game series last weekend last weekend -- kept MSU from taking the series. The Bulldogs have dropped five of their past six league games.
"We''ve been getting better, but (opposing pitchers) have been coming at us with more offspeed with runners in scoring position," Ogden said. "We just hadn''t got the job done."
MSU will play Wednesday at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. The teams will resume a suspended game UAB leads 4-3 in the sixth.
jbw commented at 4/11/2011 8:12:00 PM:
Cohen has to go! Ron Polk had the right guy to start with and Byrne wanted to show his power and turned Polk down.. Big Mistake! cohen will never ever be a winner at MSU along with Rick Stansbury.. Stansbury is not a marque coach and will never take the basketball program anywyere near where it needs to be.. Strickland needs to make some tough but correct decisions very very soon..
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