Lynn, a sophomore righthander, set the Saturday tone with a superb outing. In his eight-complete frames he was able to successfully scatter six Bulldog base hits with the lone run coming on a fly ball from 2B Jeffrey Rea that carried over rightfield for a third-inning home run. If the blow bothered Lynn it didn't show on the field or in the box score as he struck out nine and walked no one at all.
State batters were frustrated but not surprised. "Pitching has been their strong point so far this year," said C Edward Easley, the only Bulldog batter to get a couple of base hits off Lynn. "He pitched off his fastball, he kept elevating that fastball and made us chase it when it looked so fat coming right down the middle. He's a good pitcher."
Good enough to go 5-3 on the season. Lynn likely could have gone the route but closer Satterwhite was given an inning to stay sharp and took care of all three Dogs faced.
"Lance is good, really good," MSU Coach Ron Polk said. "Justin Pigott was equally good." State's starter indeed was better than the decision pinned on him, battling through 6.2 innings. The lefthander allowed eight hits, all but one a single and four of them not getting out of the infield. It still resulted in five runs, three of them earned, with a walk and strikeout, but Pigott did his job keeping this a good game for six-plus.
And if not for a Texas-leaguer in the seventh with two outs and a pair of Ole Miss runners on the move, he would have lasted longer. "They executed," said Pigott (3-4). "They got that one run legit and then get a bloop hit, you can't do anything about it. It's a pitch where I wanted to throw it. That's just kind of the way it's been."
Lately, anyway, as the Bulldogs failed to convert opportunity into offense. "We still had our chances to win, and coulda and shoulda," Easley said.
Lynn got through two scoreless turns with only a first-inning single by Easley against him, and was two outs into the third when Rea got a second cut at the starter on full count. "It was a chest-high fastball, I was just guessing fastball because it was 3-2," the senior said. "I didn't know it was out." Nor did anyone until the ball cleared the rightfield fence by maybe a seam's width. It was his first homer of the season.
But the Bulldogs wasted Easley's leadoff double in the fourth, leaving him on third base as Lynn got LaNinfa and Powers both to pop out. Lynn was in a much bigger jam in the fifth as LF Joseph McCaskill legged out an infield hit and RF Andy Rice made it two on bases with a single over shortstop. And when State tried to play the short game Lynn's pitch was too far inside and hit CF Mark Goforth to fill the sacks with the top of the order coming back up.
The entire situation was wasted. Rea went the opposite way but right into the glove of third baseman Cody Overbeck, who only needed two steps to double-off McCaskill. "If that's elevated a little bit more it gets over his head and two runs score," Polk said. Lynn needed three pitches to strike out sub-SS Jet Butler, who'd taken over in the fourth when starter Brandon Turner pulled a muscle.
"That was a big inning for them to get out of that," said Rea. "They're a team that feeds off momentum."
Pigott had his own momentum working for five innings, though he had to strand a pair in the second who reached on near-identical infield choppers to the left side. He was able to leave lone runners on for the next three turns. But it was still just a one-run margin when cleanup Rebel Overbeck came up an out into the sixth. He made the team's best contact of the entire day with a double to centerfield.
Centerfielder Logan Power scored him with a base hit to leftfield to even the scoreboard at 1-1. Worried about Power stealing, Pigott came in on Zach Miller and hit him. A ground ball advanced both runners with .248 batter C.J. Ketchum up, and Pigott threw a slider that was inside and right on the hands. Just where it was supposed to be.
Except the Ole Miss first baseman fought it off and into rightfield, landing perfectly between a trio of Bulldog fielders. Rightfielder Rice had the best chance, but "He got a poor jump on it, he didn't see it," Polk said. Both runners, on the move already, scored easily for a 3-1 lead.
More Dog defensive breakdowns in the seventh expanded the deficit as Jordan Henry reached when first baseman Mitch Moreland lost track of a straight-hopper in the glare for a scratch single. Two outs later Henry was on second and Overbeck grounded to shortstop. But Butler overthrew Moreland for a free run. Power bunted his way on, and State let Pigott call it a day.
Bowen was met with a single through the right side by Miller, scoring Overbeck for the final margin. His 1.1 innings saw two hits and a strikeout. Meanwhile Lynn did hit Easley in the sixth and gave up a Rea single in the eighth, with nothing coming of either.
"We had some opportunities," Polk said. "But Lynn doesn't walk anybody and we hit some elevated balls."
Pigott agreed the Rebel order is a tough one to keep down over nine innings, but noted the two crucial situations that turned the afternoon: the failure to cash in on the bases-loaded, no outs third and the blooper that put Ole Miss in front to say. "And we didn't really do a good job fighting back after that," he said. "We missed a lot of opportunities early. But it's a team loss, I'm not putting it on them. There's certain things we've got to get done and we didn't get them done early."
Besides, the pitcher added, "You can only feed this bunch a little bit. Give them a jam like that and they get out of it, it just feeds them." The mostly-red crowd of 7,312 ate it up, too. Polk, a veteran of over three decades of SEC road trips, noted the ardor of the home folk too, especially those around the third base coaching box. Polk was particularly amused by shouted suggestions of "nursing home."
But the Bulldogs' standing in the SEC going into Sunday is suddenly in much shakier health, and while there are three league weekends left—two of them back home—State players know they cannot afford a sweeping at this point of the season. Not if they intend to show up at the SEC Tournament with a strong seeding and make a good case for hosting a Regional. It's a matter of staying focused on the job, the veteran Dogs said. "It's going to test us a lot," said Rea. "We look forward to playing tomorrow."
"I felt we played hard, Ole Miss just came out on top the last two days," Easley said. "We'll come out and play hard tomorrow." Sunday's game-three is at 1:30, with a couple of righthanders scheduled to toss. State will start Josh Johnson (2-2, 6.18era) while Nathan Baker (5-1, 3.66) will be on the hill for Ole Miss.