By Paul Jones/Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – Cody Freeman got what he was looking for, and as a result, Mississippi State got what it needed:
A series win in the Southeastern Conference.
Freeman, a MSU junior catcher, collected a two-out, single Sunday afternoon to lead the Bulldogs to an 11-10 victory. MSU trailed 10-2 heading into the eighth inning but never waved the white flag against the other Bulldogs in the SEC.
Freeman’s game-winner plated pinch-runner Jaron Shepherd to cap MSU’s improbable comeback and give the Bulldogs their first SEC series win of the season.
“It was a slider up,” said Freeman of his RBI single. Georgia reliever Cooper Mosley, he said. “had beaten me with a fastball the previous pitch. He just left the slider up and that’s what we’re taught to look for.
“This is big. We’ve been struggling, you know, and just to win the series is big to the players and coaches.”
The Bulldogs moved to 14-10 overall and 2-4 in the SEC. Georgia fell to 9-15 and 1-5.
MSU scored eight runs in the eighth inning to set up Freeman’s heroics. Jonathan Ogden keyed the inning with a three-run home run while Luke Adkins;’ two-run double cut the deficit to 10-9. Connor Power’s RBI single tied the game at 10-10.
Unfortunately, MSU head coach John Cohen wasn’t in the dugout to see his squad rally for the second time this weekend. Cohen was ejected in the top of the second inning after arguing balls and strikes with home plate umpire John Whitaker.
For much of the early season, Cohen has raved about his team’s talent but also of their inexperience. Yet he hasn’t questioned their efforts and their never-give-up attitude, which was on display again Sunday.
“I was really pleased with how our kids competed there,” said Cohen, who watched the conclusion of the game from the baseball offices. “You look at anything that’s going to catapult you. You look at Georgia, and I know they are struggling. But boy, when you just start looking into the kind of talent they have over there, you know it’s a matter of time before they bust out.
“To take two out of three from anybody in this league, at this point in time, is a big, big weekend.”
Getting past Palazzone
Georgia starting pitcher Michael Palazzone bounced back from a rough first inning and kept MSU at bay the rest of his stint.
MSU took a 2-0 lead in the first thanks to Russ Sneed’s two-run homer, his third of the season. But after surrendering four hits in the first, Palazzone (4-2) did not allow another hit until MSU’s Ryan Collins tripled in the sixth inning.
In seven innings of work, Palazzone struck nine and walked four.
Yet it was all for nothing after Georgia’s pen could not hold what seemed like a comfortable cushion.
“We got to (Palazzone)a little bit in that first inning,” said Collins, who had three hits on the day along with Jet Butler. “Then he started to change his pattern, started to use the breaking ball a little bit more and that really gave us fits for a few innings. But once we got past him and into the bullpen, some good things started happening.”
MSU’s Greg Houston (3-0) got the win, and kept UGA hitless in his 11/3 innings of action.
“I just came in trying to get people out and give my team a chance to win the game,” said Houston. “Our hitters were unbelievable with great at-bats. This is a great team win and you don’t get to be a part of something like this very often. Winning games like that is special.”