|May 16, 2009||LSU at MSU: Game 3 Thread||5 comments|
|May 15, 2009||Final: MSU 8, LSU 7||5 comments|
|May 15, 2009||LSU at MSU: Game 2 Thread||4 comments|
|May 15, 2009||Game Time Moved; Blog Bag Answers||4 comments|
|May 15, 2009||Baseball, Recruits … and More!||1 comments|
|May 14, 2009||Final: LSU 5, MSU 4||no comments|
|May 14, 2009||LSU at MSU: Game 1 Thread||2 comments|
|May 14, 2009||More on DeLoach; Plus, Lots o' Links||2 comments|
|May 13, 2009||Cam Newton to UT? And Other Links||3 comments|
|May 13, 2009||LSU-MSU: A Championship Series?||no comments|
The first season of the John Cohen Era comes to a close today. Mississippi State (25-28, 9-19 SEC) and No. 2 LSU (40-15, 19-10) play a rubber match that we hope will not be interrupted by rain. Game time was moved up two hours to avoid incoming inclement weather. Radar currently shows patches of moderate to heavy rain scattered throughout the region (I felt like Dick Rice when I typed that).
Maybe the Bulldogs won't be in the SEC Tournament, but they can mess up LSU's plans. The Tigers are tied for first in the Western Division, and for first overall, with Ole Miss. I guess for once the Rebels are pulling for the Bulldogs.
MSU has a real shot at winning this thing. After feasting on Tiger ace Louis Coleman in last night's 8-7 win, State will face Austin Ross (5-6, 5.09). Of course, throwing for MSU is freshman Devin Jones (0-3, 7.59). Could be a 12-10 ballgame. Just sayin'.
LSU: LF Landry (.281), 1B Schimpf (.319), DH Dean (.327), CF Mahtook (.317), RF Mitchell (.331), 2B LeMahieu (.355), 3B Hanover (.312), C Gibbs (.279), SS Nola (.242).
MSU: CF Hogue (.316), RF Collins (.269), C DeLoach (.354), DH Duffy (.339), 1B C.Powers (.297), LF Adkins (.275), 3B Sneed (.337), 2B Butler (.333), SS Rawdow (.263).
Mississippi State not only overcame LSU tonight, it overcame itself. After blowing a 7-3 lead in the ninth, the Bulldogs got it done in the bottom half. DH Cody Freeman smacked a walk-off RBI single to even the series. The hit came off closer Matty Ott (3-2) on an 0-2 inside fastball. It was the same pitch Ott had used to strike out Freeman the night before to end the eighth inning, with the tying run 90 feet away.
"He beat me last night with it. I knew I was going to get it again (and) turned it around," said Freeman. Ironically, Freeman had replaced starter Ryan Duffy an inning earlier, even though Duffy was 2-for-3 with a double, home run and three RBIs.
"I think both those guys are such good hitters. It’s not that you’re taking Duffy out, it’s more like you’re giving Freeman an opportunity," State coach John Cohen said. "It’s really hard not to give that opportunity to someone like Freeman."
Connor Powers had a pair of two-run homers off LSU ace Louis Coleman, who entered the game with the league's best ERA (2.45). He gave up seven runs on seven hits in six innings, fanning six and walking one on 84 pitches.
"He threw some really good pitches to me, he just missed twice," Powers said.
Powers' first blast came in the first inning to give MSU (25-28, 9-19 SEC) a 3-0 lead. It landed in the Left Field Lounge. His second dinger was even more impressive, as it cleared the big green wall, and the speakers perched above it, in center field in the sixth for a 7-3 edge.
Powers said he was sure MSU would win it in the ninth, and that's the kind of attitude his teammates shared.
"It’d be really easy with the kind of year that we’ve had for our kids to really kind of hang our heads – two-run jack that ties it up, we’ve seen it all before," Cohen said. "But they didn’t do it. The only thing I’m hearing out of our dugout is, ‘Hey, we’re still gonna win this game,’ which is saying a lot."
LSU (40-15, 19-10) fell into a tie with Ole Miss for the SEC West and overall lead.
Freshman lefty Nick Routt was strong again for MSU, working into the ninth before being pulled with no outs and two on. He was charged with six runs on six hits, struck out five and walked five. Reliever Jared Wesson gave up a two-run homer to Blake Dean to tie the game, but Greg Houston (2-2) put out the fire.
Routt actually missed the exciting ending. He was in the training room getting his sore back worked on when he heard Freeman had won the game. So he dashed out onto the field to join the celebration.
Cohen wishes the dramatics had been unnecessary. "We’ve got to have somebody who can come in the game – and Jared Wesson was so brilliant last Friday – but we’ve got to have the guy who can come in and get three, six outs," he said.
Saturday's finale will start at noon. Cohen said freshman Devin Jones (0-3, 7.59) is likely to start, and he'll be opposed by Austin Ross (5-6, 5.09).
Mississippi State's nine seniors have been recognized and presented with framed jerseys, and we're about to play Game 2 of this season-closing series at Dudy Noble Field. LSU won last night, 5-4. On the hill for State is freshman Nick Routt (5-3, 3.89), opposed by LSU ace Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.45).
Now for the lineups.
LSU: LF Schimpf (.326), CF Mahtook (.331), DH Dean (.328), 2B LeMahieu (.352), 3B Hanover (.310), 1B Ochinko (.333), RF Mitchell (.331), C Gibbs (.278), SS Nola (.224).
MSU: CF Hogue (.316), RF Collins (.263), C DeLoach (.352), DH Duffy (.331), 1B C.Powers (.291), LF Adkins (.274), 3B Sneed (.343), 2B Butler (.339), SS Rawdow (.260).
First, need to let y'all know that Saturday's Game 3 between MSU and LSU has been moved up to a noon start "due to impending weather conditions," according to the press release. Also, senior recognition has been moved up to tonight, prior to the official 6:36 start.
Now, on to the Blog Bag.
Q: What does Coach John Cohen see as the more glaring “need” to turn this team around and make them a contender immediately?
A: That’s an easy one – pitching. The offense has been pretty solid, if inconsistent, this season. The defense needs work, but that’s teachable. Pitching has been a nightmare, but he’s addressing that through recruiting. He’s already signed guys like Chris Stratton (Tupelo), the Daily Journal’s 2008 Player of the Year; Luke Bole (Hartselle, Ala.), who’s also a power-hitting first baseman; Chad Girodo (Hartselle, Ala.); Ben Bracewell (Briarwood Christian, Chelsea, Ala.); Kendall Graveman (Benjamin Russell, Alexander City, Ala.); Matt Lane (Pope, Marietta, Ga.); and C.C. Watson (Cleburne Co., Heflin, Ala.)
Q: Understanding that times have changed since State was the dominant SEC baseball power, with all the upgraded facilities througout the SEC and country, what will Cohen need to return us to being that consistent top 10 powerhouse?
A: Good point. It’s a pretty level playing field now with these nice facilities and such. I think MSU can become a top-10 team, if it A) fills the aforementioned pitching vacuum, and B) the players fully buy into Cohen’s philosophy. If it can be done at Kentucky, you better believe it can be done at MSU, and then some.
Q: With Dan Mullen and Greg Byrne on Twitter, do you think the other coaches could wind up Tweeting away any time soon?
A: Rick Stansbury doesn’t seem like the Tweeting type, but I could see Cohen doing it. I bet his Twitter updates would be very entertaining.
Q: Do you know if any of the players tweet from athletics-specific accounts?
A: Great question. I spent (way too much) a little time this week trying to answer this question. I went through the football, basketball and baseball rosters and found no players with Twitter accounts. I imagine there’s good reason for that. I'll get back with some coaches' thoughts on it; probably could get a whole blog entry out of it.
Q: With Cohen (supposedly) already having told the team that only nine spots are coming back, where does that leave a kid? Free to transfer, free to walk on, give up baseball?
A: Let me get to this question next week, after the season’s over. I’ll probably get a better answer from Cohen then.
Looks like the rain shouldn't mess us up too bad tonight for Game 2 between LSU and Mississippi State (6:30). The field could sure use a dry spell; looked rough last night after all the rain during the week. The ball wasn't flying off the bats, either, in LSU's 5-4 win.
Tonight's matchup is intriguing. MSU sends freshman Nick Routt (5-3, 3.89) against Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.45), who is statistically the SEC's best pitcher. Routt has been pretty fearless so far. Speaking of MSU pitchers …
In high school baseball, MSU signee Luke Bole hit a three-run homer in the third and decisive game and earned MVP honors as Hartselle defeated Briarwood for the Alabama Class 5A state title yesterday. Bole had been the losing pitcher in Game 1 on Wednesday, being out-dueled by another future Bulldog, Ben Bracewell. Bole, who is also a first baseman, hit 20 home runs this season. In Game 2, MSU signee Chad Girodo, a lefty, hurled Hartselle to victory. Speaking of recruits …
MSU's 2009 basketball signing class got a big boost in the rankings thanks to Renardo Sidney and John Riek. Scout.com has MSU's class ranked 18th in the country, just behind Marquette and ahead of the of schools like Louisville, Illinois and Washington. Speaking of track and field …
Wait. OK, couldn't find a good segue for this one. Anyway, at the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships, MSU's Marrissa Harris got off to a good start in defending her heptathlon title. She's currently in second place behind Alabama's Chealsea Taylor, but close enough to overtake her today in the final two legs.
Don't forget, MSU's softball team opens the NCAA Tournament today at Tallahassee, Fla., against California at 4 p.m. CDT.
Mississippi State found another way to lose one. No. 2 LSU (40-14, 19-9 SEC) rallied from a 4-1 deficit, pulling ahead in the eighth inning when Jared Mitchell scored on Chad Crosswhite's wild pitch with two outs. "I’m not sure Grant Fuhr could’ve stopped that ball, just watching it on the (video) screen there," MSU coach John Cohen said. Coach knows his hockey.
There would be no rally, because State's bats by that point had been muzzled. Anthony Ranaudo (7-3) gave up all four runs in the first three innings, but he allowed zero hits after that, retiring 14 of the last 15 batters he faced. He left with one out in the eighth. Matty Ott finished up for his 12th save.
Too bad for Tyler Whitney, who pitched 6.1 strong innings for MSU (24-28, 8-19 SEC). He allowed three runs on five hits, and LSU had only two hits from the second through sixth innings.
"Seems like if I can get past the first couple innings without too much damage, I was going to be OK," the junior lefty said. "I was able to settle down and pitch at a good height level down in the zone and get ahead a lot with the slider."
A slider is what Crosswhite (0-4) threw on that wild pitch. Prior to that, Lee Swindle missed a sign on the first pitch he threw – instead of a breaking ball, he grooved a fastball that Austin "Mendoza" Nola drilled for a two-run double to make it 4-3 MSU. Mikie Mahtook, who'd homered in the first inning, tied the game with an RBI single to chase Swindle.
"I think it’s symbolic of a lot of games we’ve had this year," Cohen said. "We just don’t have the ability to shut down the big inning. The big inning is caused by walks. You’ve got to be able to step out there late in the game and really just shut down a big inning, and we just allowed it to happen."
State scored three times in the third to take the 4-1 lead. The Bulldogs also backed up Whitney with some sweet defense. First baseman Connor Powers ended a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the third by making a leaping grab of a line drive. In the fifth, shortstop Frankie Rawdow made a diving stop and threw out the hitter from his knees. Rawdow has started the last four SEC games in place of injured Ryan Powers.
"I think Frankie’s got a chance to be a dominant defender at some point in time. The offensive part of it is starting to come around a little bit for him," Cohen said.
Game 2 is set for 6:30 p.m. Friday. State will send freshman lefty Nick Routt (5-3, 3.89) against LSU's Louis Coleman, who's 10-2 and leads the SEC with a 2.45 ERA.
We're live at Dudy Noble a day earlier than normal. It's Game 1 of the final SEC series of the season, and it's the end of the line for the 2009 Bulldogs, as they've not qualified for the SEC Tournament. LSU has qualified, and in fact is trying to be the No. 1 seed.
Pitching matchup is MSU's Tyler Whitney (3-4, 5.25) against LSU's Anthony Ranaudo (6-3, 3.10). Now for the lineups.
LSU: LF Schimpf (.328), CF Mahtook (.327), DH Dean (.333), LeMahieu (.349), 3B Hanover (.317), 1B Ochinko (.341), RF Mitchell (.325), C Gibbs (.278), SS Nola (.204).
MSU: CF Hogue (.320), RF Collins (.265), C DeLoach (.355), DH Duffy (.327), 1B C.Powers (.294), LF Adkins (.280), 3B Sneed (.339), 2B Butler (.333), SS Rawdow (.264).
I sometimes wonder how major college programs miss out on certain players, especially guys like Mississippi State catcher Scott DeLoach. I mean, not only was he one of the best defensive juco catchers in the nation his sophomore season at ICC, he could hit the ball – .354 in his two years in Fulton.
So, as you can read in today's Journal, DeLoach walked on at MSU, his dream school. And after spending last season buried on the bench, he has turned into an All-SEC candidate. Oh yeah, just consider the numbers, some of which were in the story:
• His .355 batting average leads the team and is tops among SEC catchers;
• his .497 on-base percentage leads the league, regardless of position;
• he's allowed only two passed balls;
• he's only thrown out 5 of 45 base stealers, but let's remember what kind of pitching staff he's had to work with.
Said his coach, John Cohen, "He’s just a very conceptual player. You can introduce a concept to him, and he can get it, and he gets it quickly. He just has a very high baseball IQ, a very good student also."
DeLoach gives a lot of credit to pitching coach Butch Thompson. "Me and Coach Thompson have a good relationship, and I feel like I communicate with the pitchers pretty well. I feel like they have a trust in me that I’ll keep balls in front of me, that I’ll call a good game. Biggest thing is the relationship Coach Thompson and I have."
As mentioned in the story, DeLoach is still a walk-on. Ron Polk, I'm sure, would have a strong opinion on that. Moving on.
The Bulldogs (24-27, 8-18 SEC) host No. 2 LSU (39-14, 18-9) in the season's final series, with first pitch tonight set for 6:30, weather permitting. The Tigers are gunning for the overall SEC crown.
Sticking with baseball, a couple of future Bulldogs – those coveted pitchers – were in action in the Alabama high school playoffs yesterday. In fact, the two signees faced off in the Class 5A state championship, with Briarwood Christian's Ben Bracewell out-dueling Hartselle's Luke Bole, 2-1, to claim the first game of the series. Cohen was in attendance.
A couple of football links this morning, too. The first comes courtesy of dusty-dawg, who found this story on ex-Miami quarterback Robert Marve possibly walking on at Tennessee. This matters to MSU because of the Cam Newton situation.
And finally, from the Dan Mullen World Tour, a story from the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun on his visit there yesterday. Much love given to the Bulldog fans. He also stumped in Corinth. Two more stops, and it's done: Monday in Birmingham, Tuesday in Huntsville.
There's a report that former Florida quarterback Cam Newton is going to choose Tennessee as his next destination, after he finishes the 2009 season at Blinn (Texas) Junior College. To quote from the link above, "Mississippi State is very much in the picture for Newton. Dan Mullen's relationship with Newton is still tight from their Florida days."
Sticking with football, bleacherreport.com offers a lengthy and "way too early" preview of the Georgia Tech-MSU game in Starkville on Oct. 3. Hey, never too early to talk football.
And this is interesting: The ACC is putting a cap on travel squads for football teams to cut costs.
On today's SEC baseball coaches teleconference – the last one of the year, save next week's pre-tournament session – LSU coach Paul Mainieri said of his team's visit to Mississippi State this weekend, "We're treating it as though it's a championship series." And in a way, it is.
LSU, with an 18-9 SEC mark, leads the West and is half-game up on Alabama (17-9) and one up on Florida and Ole Miss (both 17-10). As we saw last weekend in Oxford, MSU has the potential to screw up an opponent's best-laid plans.
Mainieri is well aware of what State did to the Rebels.
"I think it tells you they’ve got good players. Anybody that can go win in Oxford can’t do it with mirrors, you have to have good players to do that. I’ve thought all along Mississippi State has good players. It also shows they don’t quit."
MSU, of course, will not be playing in the SEC Tournament. So this is it for the seniors. That's some motivation, but it's an unfamiliar situation for first-year coach John Cohen – being part of a last-place team trying to play spoiler. He said the only other time this has happened was his first year at Kentucky.
He said he does not expect his players to be intimidated by an LSU team that will throw the likes of Anthony Ranaudo (6-3, 3.10) and Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.45).
"I think our kids know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and one of our strengths is we’re going to compete," Cohen said. "Even though we’re not where we want to be in wins and losses right now, I think they can all sense the direction we’re going."
Remember, the series begins Thursday, at 6:30 p.m. Friday's game is also at 6:30, and Saturday's finale is set for 2 p.m. In tomorrow's Journal, my preview will actually be a feature on catcher Scott DeLoach, who's gone from walk-on to the team's best hitter and the SEC's best-hitting catcher.