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Ole Miss pounds MSU to take series

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- The Ole Miss baseball team didn't let a collapse Saturday turn into a series loss.  

 

Determined not to compound its mistakes from the extra-inning loss, No. 19 Ole Miss pounded 20 hits Sunday en route to a 12-2 victory against No. 17 Mississippi State before a crowd of 10,371 at Dudy Noble Field. 

 

After watching his team surrender double-digit runs for the second-consecutive Sunday and strand 36 runners on base in the three-game series against Ole Miss, MSU coach John Cohen wasn't happy. 

 

"I'm not sure we could've beaten a very good junior high baseball team today," Cohen said. "We were absolutely uninspired in every phase of the game. Really disappointing." 

 

Cohen said it was "clear to him the direction the program had to go," but he declined to elaborate on specific changes. Instead, he extended an informal invitation for everyone to come to his team's practice today. 

 

"I guess you'll have to show up at practice (Monday) to find that out," Cohen said. "I think what we've done in the second half has been done very well, if you look at it statistically. Days like today are times where we're not representing ourselves very well." 

 

Less than 24 hours after seeing a three-run lead dissolve in the 10th inning in front of the nation's largest on-campus college baseball crowd, Ole Miss (29-9, 9-6 Southeastern Conference) dominated Ben Bracewell and Brandon Woodruff for nine runs in five innings.  

 

"They're a team that loves to hit and run, use their speed, and then pitch to their pace on the mound," Ole Miss third baseman Austin Anderson said. "When you get up on them 6-0 early, it takes everything they want to do completely off the table." 

 

Anderson had four of his six hits on the weekend Sunday. He was one of three Ole Miss players with multiple RBIs on the day. Preston Overbey was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. 

 

Ole Miss was 13-for-26 Sunday with runners in scoring position and had six stolen bases against catchers Gavin Collins and Cody Walker. The Rebels came to Starkville among the SEC leaders in nearly every offensive category. They left with a series and knowing they were one out from their first sweep of the Bulldogs since Cohen's first season in 2010.  

 

"We've had a lot of great moments to this season, but yesterday was hard," Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. "We've been that resilient, tough team that realizes you're going to be kicked in the face and get off the mat."  

 

MSU (22-15, 7-8) has been outscored 29-6 in the past two Sunday games. In those outings against LSU and Ole Miss, MSU has used eight pitchers in an attempt to find a replacement for injured starting pitcher Preston Brown. 

 

"We just not executing anything we want to, especially on the mound, and that bleeds into everything else," Cohen said. "We're going to get the right personnel and the right people. Not having Preston Brown is not an excuse." 

 

After the game, Cohen instructed his team to go straight to the clubhouse for a postgame chat that lasted approximately 10 minutes. The last time that happened was Feb. 23 after a 6-1 loss to Holy Cross. 

 

"It's takeover time and the second half of the season," Cohen said. "There is a lot left out there for us." 

 

The loss drops MSU into a five-way tie for seventh in the SEC and three-way tie for fourth in the SEC's Western Division. MSU has a one-game lead on Tennessee, Missouri, and Auburn for one of final spots to the 12-team SEC tournament. One day after watching MSU dog pile Collins following his walk-off hit in a 6-5 victory, the Rebels are third in the SEC and appear to be in solid position to earn a chance to play host to an NCAA tournament regional. 

 

MSU will play host to Alcorn State (6-30) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. It will play this weekend at Missouri, which is in last place in the SEC. Cohen was an assistant with the Tigers from 1995-97.  

 

Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.

 

 

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