By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Mississippi State’s offensive issues have never really gone away, and they came back to haunt the Bulldogs in Friday’s 5-0 loss to Samford in the NCAA regional opener.
To coach John Cohen, it was reminiscent of a 2-0 loss to Central Arkansas on May 15.
“I don’t know if it was a focus issue or what, we just did a very poor job of recognizing pitches,” Cohen said.
The Bulldogs have not been a strong offensive club all year, although they’ve had their moments. Entering Friday’s game, MSU had won 18 of its last 24, usually scoring just enough to support one of the nation’s best pitching staffs. During that span, it batted .227.
The problem hasn’t always been getting people on base, but moving them over. State had five hits Friday and stranded eight runners.
Its first big chance to score was in the second, when two men reached with one out. Wes Rea struck out, and then after a hit-by-pitch loaded the bases, Daryl Norris popped up to end the inning.
Rea hit a two-out double to left field in the fourth but was stranded. Hunter Renfroe’s one-out single in the sixth was erased by a double play.
In the seventh, with Samford up 1-0, Mitch Slauter led off with an infield single, and then Rea hit a long fly ball to right field. Brandon Miller made a leaping catch near the wall.
Slauter was then cut down at second base trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt.
“You get a leadoff guy on like that, and then you hit into some unfortunate things, and things didn’t fall our way today,” Slauter said.
MSU starter Chris Stratton kept Samford at bay after yielding a second-inning home run. The ace right-hander gave up two more home runs in the eighth as Samford broke through for four runs.
“It’s not easy to keep pitching at your best level when you’re having to put the team on your back and you’re having that much pressure on you inning in and inning out,” Slauter said.