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The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

MSU struggles to score runs in weekend series

David Lewis
Diamond Dawgs

Despite drawing an NCAA on-campus record crowd and extra-inning dramatics on Saturday, the Mississippi State University baseball team dropped two of three games to rival Ole Miss.

The Rebels improved to 29-9 on the year with a 9-6 SEC record while the Dogs fell to 22-15 and 7-8 in league play. MSU also lost its second-straight SEC series of the year and first home series since the 2012 season. 

Ole Miss began the weekend on an offensive tear with a 6-1 win Friday night. MSU collected 10 hits, but stranded nine runners and hit into two double plays. 

MSU Head Coach John Cohen said his team swung the bats as well as the Rebels, who had 13 hits, but his team struggled to find timely hitting. 

“We’re struggling to score runs. I think part of it is pretty bad fortune, but we didn’t help ourselves. We’re putting ourselves in a good position, but we’re just not finding holes,” Cohen said. “We made some mistakes on the bases, but I think sometimes the kids are just trying too hard. In this league, you need to take a deep breath and let game come to you.”

On the mound, Ross Mitchell threw just one out shy of a complete game and registered five strikeouts.

MSU responded offensively Saturday in front of a record crowd of 15,586 as the Dogs scored four runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to best the Rebels 6-5.

With the game knotted at two after regulation, Ole Miss plated three runs in the top of the 10th inning highlighted by Sikes Orvis’s two-run home run to claim a 5-2 lead.

With a win looking doubtful, freshmen Cody Brown and Seth Heck began the MSU rally with back-to-back doubles. An error and a sacrifice fly out later pulled the Dogs within a run.

Senior Wes Rea blooped an RBI double in right field to tie the game before freshman catcher Gavin Collins roped the game-winning single to cap the four-run inning. 

Collins, who collected three hits and two RBIs Saturday, said a good scouting report on Ole Miss pitcher Preston Tarkington, who just entered the game before Collin’s hit, gave him confidence at the plate.

“We had a good scouting report and knew he was going to throw most cutters and very few sliders,” Collins said. “I was trying to see a strike first to see what he was throwing. Then he threw another cutter on the lower half of the plate. I swung and hit, and it happened to go through a hole and we won the game.”

Freshman Vance Tatum picked up his first win in Maroon and White on the mound. After the Rebels extended the lead to 5-2 with two outs in the top of the 10th, Tatum came in for Jonathan Holder. Tatum would only need three pitches to get the final out of the frame and secure the win. 

Senior Derrick Armstrong, who went 2-4 in the win and flashed his glove with key plays defensively, was on deck when Collins hit the game-winning single. Armstrong said even down three runs, he knew his team would find a way to win.

“We just kept fighting. We’re going to fight no matter what. Today we kept fighting, and we got the W,” he said. “We just had to grind at-bats and get the tying run to the plate and see what we can do when we have runners on base. I told Gavin when they made the pitching change, ‘You’re going to get the hit, and I’m going to tackle you.’ He did good.”

The Dogs could not carry Saturday’s extra-inning dramatics into the series finale as MSU dropped a 12-2 decision to the Rebels. 

The Rebels pounded out 20 hits and capitalized on three Bulldog errors to secure the series win.

Bracewell suffered the loss after surrendering two runs on five hits in two and two-thirds innings pitched. 

Cohen credited Ole Miss for its series finale win and said his team will make adjustments beginning in practice this week.

“I think Ole Miss played really well today. I give them all the credit in the world,” Cohen said. “I’m not sure we could have beaten a very good junior high baseball team today. We were absolutely uninspired in every phase of the game. Every bit of it is my fault, and we have to do a better job with our kids. It starts tomorrow at practice. We’re going to do a much better job in some areas than we have been.” 

Cohen also placed blame on him and his coaching staff for Sunday’s loss.

“We’re not going to use injuries as an excuse any more. Our kids are going to compete, or they’re not going to be in this baseball program. That’s what the expectation level is, that’s what we want out of our players and that’s what we want out of every phase of our program,” he said. “I feel like I made the bad pitches today. I feel like I made the bad defensive plays. I feel like I had the bad at-bats. It’s not our players. They’ve got to be directed better. Our coaching staff has got to do a better job, and we will.”

The Bulldogs return to the diamond Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. against Alcorn State before traveling to Columbia, Mo., to take on the Missouri Tigers in a three-game series beginning Friday.

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MSU struggles to score runs in weekend series