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MSU baseball team turns focus to improving

 

Danny P Smith

 

STARKVILLE -- Mississippi State senior catcher Scott DeLoach wasn''t considered much of a factor for playing time when the baseball season began. 

 


DeLoach was projected for defensive purposes to spell sophomore Cody Freeman and junior Ryan Duffy. 

 


But by the end of the season, DeLoach assumed a bigger role than he had ever dreamed. 

 


DeLoach not only played, but he finished the season as Mississippi State''s leading hitter with a .353 batting average. 

 


The emergence of DeLoach was considered one of the brightest spots in an otherwise disappointing season for MSU (25-29, 9-20 Southeastern Conference). 

 


"Coming in, I wasn''t expected to do what I did," DeLoach said. "My season was centered around defense, control pitchers and run the game from behind the plate and being a coach on the field. Hitting is something I did not put as much time in as I did defense, but it''s been a great blessing to do what I did this year. Being it was my senior season, it is something I will remember for the rest of my life." 

 


DeLoach was one of nine seniors who played their final game at Dudy Noble Field, Polk-DeMent Stadium on Saturday. 

 


Despite a second-straight losing season, the Bulldogs did win two more games than the previous year (23-33 in 2008) and coach John Cohen saw other things that made him proud. 

 


MSU had a better team batting average (.298), scored more runs (356), hit more home runs (61), had a better on-base percentage (.398) and had more stolen bases (72) than in 2008. 

 


"If you look at every offensive category, it was better than it was a year ago," Cohen said. "That''s after you lose arguably the most productive hitter (Tyler Moore) on the team. Offensively, we made a big jump." 

 


The stolen bases were due largely in part to senior leadoff hitter Grant Hogue, who stole 29 bases to rank second-most in school history. Hogue''s 54 career steals tie him for fourth all-time. 

 


Hogue enjoyed his time running the bases for the Bulldogs for two years after transferring from Pearl River Community College. 

 


"We didn''t win a lot, but it was a time I''ll never forget," Hogue said. "I thank coach (Ron) Polk for giving me an opportunity to play at this place and I know the future is going to be bright. Coach Cohen has established a foundation and one day hopefully we can look back at being a part of that. There are better days ahead at Mississippi State." 

 


Cohen realizes there are still areas of the game that need work and intends to address those immediately in the offseason. 

 


The process began with a team meeting on Sunday and Cohen is holding individual meetings with players throughout the week. 

 


Cohen says meetings are sometimes unpleasant, but necessary to move the program forward. 

 


"Where one chapter ends, another one begins," Cohen said. "Our total focus now starts with who is going to be on this field next year and prepare them to play in the best league in America. 

 


"(Meetings) were hard at Kentucky and that''s after we won the first SEC championship. "Every year it is hard because only nine guys get to play and that leaves 26 guys who don''t. We''ll do what''s necessary for this program to flourish. That''s what our fans deserve, what the administration deserves and what the players deserve." 

 


One of things that Cohen and the rest of the coaching staff has to monitor is the June Major League Baseball draft and how it will effect the look of next year''s club. 

 


Junior first baseman Connor Powers (19 HR, 63 RBI) was the best power hitter for the Bulldogs and is the most likely underclassman to leave the program. 

 


Powers knows he''ll have a decision to make after learning where he is taken in the draft. 

 


"We''ll see how everything plays out the next couple of weeks," Powers said. "When that times comes, I''m sure we''ll be discussing those things." 

 


 

 

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