State Stranded By Hawkeyes In 5-3 Loss

Mississippi State was able to put people on the paths. Bringing them all the way around was an entirely different matter though, as the Diamond Dogs were left with a sick stranded feeling following a 5-3 loss to Iowa at Dudy Noble Field.

A grand total of 22 Bulldogs managed to reach one base or another but only four of them reached home and one of those was incredibly ruled an out anyway. It was the aftermath of that fourth-inning incident that sent an ejected Coach John Cohen to his office for the balance of the contest. Not that the rest of the game looked much better on video feed.

"We had some runs out there we didn't score, for many reasons," the still-upset coach said afterwards. "Most were in our control but a couple were not."

Also beyond Bulldog control was wet weather that began before first pitch and reached enough intensity to halt the game for over two hours in the fifth inning. For whatever reasons the Hawkeyes handled the interruption a bit better, breaking a 1-1 tie upon resumption with two runs and never giving up the lead. Iowa had their own shortcomings as well but managed to out-perform the home team when it mattered, getting a few more hits, leaving a few fewer stranded, and most of all getting better pitching.

Most notably from reliever Zach Kenyon (1-0) who was handed the ball after the long break with a lead to protect. He did, lasting 4.0 more innings with a run on two hits, three walks, and striking out eight Dogs. He ended all four of his frames with a fanning, the biggest being the seventh when with a 4-2 lead Kenyon left the bases full.

Closer Kevin Lee also had his own stuffed-sacks jam in the ninth, and while he did give up one more MSU run he was able to strike out 1B Daryl Norris swinging at a shoelace-level offering; then hit the outer corner on RF Ryan Collins to end the evening and earn his first save.

In all 11 Dogs were struck out, with freshman Norris twice going down and leaving bases loaded. But it was a few State runners who didn't get stranded that also left the coach fuming. They were either caught stealing or going for an extra base on own-initiative, itself not a sin but on Friday's damp dirt not the correct choice. On top of that was, for the first time this season, a lack of what Cohen called focus; particularly after the mid-game delay.

"And that's my responsibility. Very poor at-bats, many, many walks on the mound, I think defensively we were OK. We have a lot of older guys that are trying to do way too much trying to win the game with one swing, again that's my responsibility. There were some other things going on in the game that had nothing to do with Mississippi State that were very frustrating when you're watching the game on Maroon to the Max."

Realistically though something looked lacking in State from the start. A bad one. Rain was falling even as the first-batter pitch from Devin Jones was knocked high and long down the left field line. LF C.T. Bradford thought he had a bead but over-ran just enough that his reach-back was short. Trevor Willis made third and was scored by Zach McCool's grounder.

By contrast Hawkeye opener Jarred Hippen got a good first-inning break, as after a one-out infield hit and walk State tried double-stealing. 3B Jarrod Parks was thrown out at second, foiling any opportunity to tie the game on a dribbler or fly. Instead DH Cody Freeman was a called-strikeout. The next inning two Dogs reached again on a walk and infield single with one out, and were unscored.

Iowa had their own missed chances to expand early as Jones had four reach in the second inning and escaped on ground-ball forces. C Wes Thigpen threw out a thief in the fourth and would later pick off another on first base. State finally made something happen against Hippen in the fourth but not before losing the head coach. A one-out double had SS Jonathan Ogden in scoring position and he had the green light for home on Norris' single to rightfield.

Ogden made it there, too, his hand well under any tag. But home plate umpire Burdis Williams had taken a poor position, his view entirely blocked by the catcher, and after hesitation stepped towards the plate and signaled out. An enraged Cohen was quickly tossed.

But Hippen was hit by Collins' direct shot for an infield single and, rattled, plunked CF Brent Brownlee to load the bases. Worse for the pitcher was some very dubious Williams ball calls as Thigpen was walked to force in Norris. 2B Nick Vickerson hit it well and directly to a glove to leave the paths full for the first time.

And the tie didn't last long, at least inning-wise, as Hawkeye Taylor Zeutenhorst opened the fifth with a chink single. A bunt and wild Jones pitch put him on third base, that latter reflecting the increasing rain that brought an immediate halt. 2:08 later C.C. Watson went to the hill to resume the inning, with the top third of Iowa's order containing two lefthanders. The matchups didn't work because Willis executed his squeeze-bunt so well he reached for a RBI-single. An out later lefty Mike McQuillan hit safely to score Willis for a crucial two-run margin.

Because State got just one back in the bottom of the fifth, off new pitcher Kenyon as Bradford greeted him with a single. A fielder's choice had Parks on first base, and Freeman's drive over the centerfielder was good to bring him all the way around for a 3-2 difference. But Freeman also thought he had time to make third; he didn't.

Andrew Busby worked the next 2.2 for State, rolling a double-play in the sixth but walking two and allowing consecutive singles—again by Willis and McCool—to score Kurt Lee. His eighth lasted two outs with a walk, bunt, wild pitch, and RBI single from pinch-hitter Andrew Host for a 5-2 lead. Freshman Luis Pollorena finished the pitching out, ending the eighth with a pickoff and stranding three in the ninth on two strikeouts.

But State's offense wasn't able to make it happen against Kenyon, despite three walks in the seventh. Lee at least opened the door in the ninth against the top of the order, plunking Vickerson and balking him along before a one-out hit to Parks for the RBI. Freeman and Ogden followed with their own singles to load ‘em up. Lee had to battle both Norris and Collins but ultimately won.

Jones (1-2) took the loss on his 4.1 innings with two runs on four hits, two walks, and four strikeouts. "I thought Devin did a nice job, if he gets us a little deeper into this inning who knows," Cohen said. Four Dogs had a pair of hits, but Iowa's Willis hit safely 4-of-5 chances with two runs a RBI while McCool drove in two with two hits. That top-third of the Iowa order accounted for seven of the 12 hits, and for that matter the whole team batted better than even they expected.

"It's frustrating early on, you have a team hitting under .200 that shows up here and every ground ball or fist-job finds a hole," said Cohen, contrasting it to State's lack of well-placed licks. It was also obvious that the Bulldogs were inexplicably tight at the plate, whether from over-effort or the erratic strike zone that had all hitters and hurlers from both dugouts baffled.

"Iowa came in here tonight and did a great job, and really the last five innings we didn't," Cohen said. "We have to rectify that for sure."

State has a pair of Saturday games scheduled, against Georgia State at noon and Iowa at 4:00. Rain was falling again after this game though and the forecast was for more in the morning, leaving the rest of the weekend very much in question. Fans should check the MSU sports website for updates on game times or possible rescheduling.

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