San Diego Shuts Dogs Down 2-1 To Open Series

The Bulldogs figured they had gotten the ‘uncompetitive’ out of their systems in a midweek loss. San Diego showed otherwise. “I don’t think we had guys who were really, really sharp and ready to compete,” Coach John Cohen said after Friday’s 2-1 decision.

San Diego starter David Hill threw seven scoreless innings, while his offense took advantage of two worst-timed Bulldog pitching mistakes to score all that was ultimately needed. By taking the first of the three weekend games the Toreros improved to 5-6.

Mississippi State now has lost consecutive contests after a 13-0 start. Falling to a San Diego squad which won at Texas last weekend wasn’t anything to hang heads over. How the Bulldogs played, or not-played? That was another matter for Cohen.

“The way they scored, and the way we didn’t compete as well as we wanted to, that’s pretty frustrating.”

How the Toreros scored was as simple as surprising. But runs came home from third base on wild pitches, each by State starter Preston Brown. And only one of those scorers had reached base on a hit to begin with, as San Diego managed just six total hits. State had the same count, in fact, which led to the coach’s other issue.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t have competitive at-bats, one-through-nine,” said Cohen.

That was not entirely accurate. At the top of the MSU order SS Seth Heck hit his way on twice, and drove in the only Bulldog run. Coming across in that eighth inning was RF Cody Brown, 2-of-2 on the evening with a walk as well.

The isolated successes of Heck and Brown, swinging in the first and seventh slots, reflected also how they differed from other Dogs coming to the box. “Just staying aggressive, getting good pitches to hit, hitting pitches early in more of a hitter’s count,” Brown said. “And hitting pitches I know I can hit.” Ironically Brown was on-deck when the last Dog was outed in the ninth.

Most of their teammates watched, waited, and got behind Hill (2-2). Coming off a one-hitter in Austin, the righthander only allowed four State singles in his full seven innings with two walks and six strikeouts. Hill almost had two different games-within-game. For three innings he rolled grounders or got short pop-flies.

In the fourth he turned into a K-machine, striking out five in a row with the first four called out of indecisive Dogs. “Their guy on the mound was very good,” said Brown, the only lineup batter Hill did not put down. “I think we had some good at-bats and he just won more of them than we did.”

Mississippi State gave the ball to RHP Preston Brown for a fourth-straight Friday, looking for a fourth-straight win. It didn’t happen. After a six-pitch first inning Brown lost the touch that had won previous starts. A plunking of Jesse Jenner to lead off the second set something of a tone. Because after Jenner stole second base, a passed ball and then Brown dirtball brought him home.

It was more of the same in the fourth, sort of. After Brown rolled a double-play, he was hit by Colton Waltner and advanced him with consecutive walks. Brown’s bases-loaded wild pitch made it a 2-0 lead which was all San Diego would need.

“It’s the manner in which they scored,” said Cohen. “You feel you’re giving them two runs. Preston wasn’t his sharpest tonight.”

Brown (3-1) threw 6.1 innings with five hits, three walks, and five strikeouts. LHP Ross Mitchell finished out the evening with 2.2 innings on one hit and two strikeouts.

Hill did have a Dog on first base all his first three innings. Double-plays erased them in the first and second, then Brown was left on third base in the third inning by a pop-up. The best chance of getting to Hill came in State’s half of the seventh, after two outs.

CF Jacob Robson kept the inning alive with a walk and drew repeated picks. But he was not moving or even leaning much when 3B Ryan Gridley knocked a single into centerfield. It’s possible Robson could not see the centerfielder getting to the ball while rounding second base, or that he was waved on regardless. Either way, Waltner’s throw got to third base two steps sooner.

San Diego made the mound-move for the eighth with lefthander and brother Jacob Hill throwing four balls to Brown, then wild-pitching him over to second. Hill stayed in to pop-out Lovelady, but with OF Mike Smith pinch-batting another lefty was called on.

Anthony McIver got Smith to look at strike three, but Heck bounced a base hit through the middle to score Brown. That was all as pinch-batter Brent Rooker flew out to center to leave it a one-run deficit. The Bulldogs did come very close to changing the score though in their last chance. 1B Wes Rea singled and with pinch-runner Jake Vickerson bunted along, Gavin Collins was given a pinch-hit chance.

Collins got around on 2-2 just a tiny bit too much as his deep drive was out, just a few feet left of the pole. Collins grounded out as did Gridley to end the game with the tying runner on third base. McIver picked up a second save with 1.2 scoreless innings.

Cohen praised Hill, particularly his slick breaking ball that found the strike zone. “He’s a SEC-looking pitcher,” a comment that the coach might have re-considered making since the unproductive Bulldog batters are now six days from league play. Cohen had other items which had not been exposed in the unbeaten start.

“Their two runs score because we don’t execute pitches and block them, and that’s something we’ve been really good at,” he said. “Throw a ball to the backstop and let a guy walk in, that’s pretty frustrating.” Still after a 3-2 Tuesday loss to Arkansas-Pine Bluff spoiled the perfect record offense is the central concern. And, not merely the lack of scoring.

“You still have to make the at-bats competitive and I didn’t feel like we did a great job of that.”

Bulldog batters get a fresh chance Saturday, with a 2:00 start. RHP Austin Sexton (1-0, 2.63) starts for state, against lefthander P.J. Conlon (1-0, 1.59).

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