Dogs Lead 4-0 As Weather Halts Evening Play

When John Cohen was coaching at Kentucky his players would tease him about the local climatic conditions. "They'd say don't you miss being down South where you don't have bad weather? I'd say guys, you think like there's a bubble around the Southeast?" Cohen said Saturday night after game-two of a twinbill with South Carolina was stopped by fog with MSU leading 4-0 after two innings.

Weather has controlled the first SEC series of the season for both squads, first washing out Friday's scheduled opener and now halting the second Saturday contest. In-between Mississippi State was able to take game-one by a 13-6 score (see story on front page). Two innings into the second game the Bulldogs had just taken the lead by pushing four runs across, three on a two-out double by 2B Jet Butler.

It was Butler's sixth RBI of the day.

That big hit had come as fog steadily increased over Dudy Noble Field, and as soon as South Carolina starter Blake Cooper ended the second with a strikeout the SEC umpiring crew called a halt. A half-hour later after debate with MSU facilities and grounds staff the decision to call it a night and resume play Sunday in the top of the third was official. Game resumption-time is now noon, with the full nine innings to be completed unless per SEC rules one team has a ten-run lead after seven innings.

The third game, which will be a seven-inning contest, will start a half-hour after the second ends.

Even as everyone debated the situation Saturday the fog was lessening. But as Cohen said, "The umpires felt it wasn't necessarily safe. The other concern we had, the people we were calling were saying within 15-30 minutes we were going to get a heavy rain. And we didn't want to send our starting guys back out there and lose them. I think it's possible we might be able to get Routt back out there tomorrow."

As in MSU freshman lefthander Nick Routt, who had retired the South Carolina side in order twice with a couple of strikeouts. The rookie needed just 19 pitches to make those two turns, and Cohen wanted to keep going if possible.

"The way Nick was throwing the baseball you hate to put the brakes on that. I mean he was getting both sides of the plate and working in rhythm. As soon as the umpire walked out there I looked Butch (Thompson, pitching coach) in the eye and said hey, are we going to be able to send Routt back out there? Because if we can I'm going to try to throw a road block on this thing and keep it going!" Which proved impossible of course. And Routt's evening would have ended soon enough even with resumption as light rain did arrive around 9:00.

"Hopefully he can come back tomorrow and do what he's doing," Cohen said. And since State only used starter Tyler Whitney and middle-reliever Forrest Moore in the opening win, the bullpen is in good shape for 14 more Sunday innings. Gamecock starter Cooper by contrast had thrown 54 pitches and is a much more iffy Sunday case.

State got a pair on the paths in the first inning against Cooper with a walk of RF Ryan Collins and plunking of Butler, and no more. The second was another matter. DH Ryan Duffy and C Cody Freeman both singled through the middle and were pushed into scoring positions by SS Ryan Powers' bunt. CF Grant Hogue delivered the first RBI-knock of the night with a liner through the right side scoring Duffy, as Freeman stopped at third and Hogue nearly got run-down going round first too far. He was able to steal second on a 2-1 ball to Collins.

SC third baseman Andrew Crisp saved a couple of scores by diving and stopping Collins' hot shot. And ump Nelson Graham saved a run by blocking a dirtball with his feet. But after a walk loaded the sacks Butler was able to lash one over third base that landed maybe three inches fair. Freeman, Houge, and Adkins all came home for a 4-0 Bulldog lead. Butler was on second when the inning ended.

And soon after, the evening did too. As conditions worsened Dudy Noble veterans could recall a 1988 SEC night game, with Georgia, that was halted also by much more intimidating fog but no rain. That one resumed, as Cohen—a member of that Diamond Dog club—remembered.

"I was telling Ray (Tanner, SC coach) when I was playing here it happened two or three times a year, between the grills in the Lounge and the fog from the Gulf!"

More seriously, Cohen was pleased to have at least gotten one SEC win on the books Saturday and to be in good shape going into Sunday's re-revised schedule. While the offense and pitching were both strong Saturday, it was the work of his outfield glovemen that drew particular praise. "I thought our kids really dealt with the conditions. I tell you there was some deep water in the outfield."

The Sunday schedule starts at the same time as does Mississippi State's basketball game in the title round of the SEC Tournament in Tampa. Thus the hoops team will have the radio airwaves first, with Jack Cristil and Jim Ellis calling the contest against Tennessee as State tries to earn the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.

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