HOOVER, Ala. Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk smiled when the question was asked about the performance of home plate umpire Ken Couch.
“I’m not allowed to say an umpire is incompetent,” said Polk, wiping the sweat from his head in the postgame press conference. “I could be in trouble if I said that. So I won’t.”
The question was prompted by the crucial moment in Mississippi State’s 6-5, 10-inning loss to Florida. MSU was clinging to a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning, but Florida had coaxed three consecutive walks.
Reliever David Hooten threw a 2-2 pitch to Eric Castaldo that MSU shortstop Brad Freeman said, “Was right there. It had to be a strike.”
In the MSU dugout, Polk and pitching coach Pat McMahon leaped off the bench just a split second before many of the other Bulldogs to vocally protest the call.
Starter Keith Dilgard, who was relieved earlier in the inning, said, “David (Hooten) started slapping his leg with the glove. That’s how you know it was a strike.
“I can tell you he (Couch) was really inconsistent when I was out there. He was horrible.”
On the next pitch, Castaldo ripped a game-tying single and Polk swiftly left the dugout and made a beeline for Couch.
“I went out and told him (Couch) that guy (Castaldo) and that (tying) run belonged to him,” Polk said. “He looked at me and said, ‘You’re out of here’.
“I thought he threw me out a little quick, but what really bothered me was he cussed me. That’s why I stayed out there so long.”
After a five-minute argument, which drew each of the umpires to home plate to intervene, Polk left the premises.
“I’m not an umpire and I understand their situation. Everybody is going to miss some,” Freeman said. “But from where I was (shortstop), it looked like the guy was missing a lot of pitches. For both teams.”
Although the Bulldogs got out of the jam without further damage, Florida went on to win it three innings later.
“This would’ve been a great one to win,” Polk said. “It hurts, but we’ll come back with Scott Polk or Brett Wheeler tomorrow (11:30 a.m. against Kentucky) and see what happens.”
The contest will mark the third contest in a 39-hour period for the Bulldogs.
“We’ll be ready,” Freeman said. “Baseball is a day-to-day game and if you’re not ready to go every day, then you’re not a ball player.”