Mississippi State failed to break through Sunday against No. 2 South Carolina, falling 13-4 to drop the series two games to one. It's been a frustrating trend for MSU: It has played three teams ranked in the top five nationally and has dropped two of three to each one. And in two of those instances – this one and Florida – the Bulldogs entered Sunday's game with a shot at taking the series.
MSU (24-16, 7-11 SEC) is 3-3 on SEC Sundays, with the wins coming at Vanderbilt (to avoid a sweep), vs. Auburn (to complete a sweep) and at Arkansas (to avoid a sweep). The losses to Georgia and Florida were close, which is what makes yesterday especially concerning.
Prior to yesterday's game, MSU pitchers had a 3.07 ERA in league Sunday games. South Carolina bumped that number to 4.76. It's been a collective effort every Sunday, with the longest outing by a starter being 5.0 innings, by Nick Routt in a 3-1 loss to Florida.
The starters' ERA on Sundays is 6.75 (5.93 before South Carolina), while the bullpen's is 3.99 (1.78 before South Carolina). Yesterday obviously skewed the numbers a bit. So perhaps it's only an anomaly.
It should be noted, however, that the only quality Sunday starts MSU has had came when Routt filled that role. He's now the Saturday night guy. In three Sunday starts, Routt allowed three earned runs in 12.0 innings for an ERA of 2.25. The other three starts were made by C.T. Bradford, Evan Mitchell and Daryl Norris – all freshmen, who have a combined 26.97 ERA (8 earned runs in 2.2 innings).
While Cohen doesn't seem to mind making it a group effort on Sundays, it's a tall task when you don't have Luis Pollorena or Caleb Reed available. Those two threw Saturday and were thus not available yesterday. And you saw what happened.
Pollorena and Reed have been lights out this season, and they're just as strong on Sundays. Pollorena has a 1.80 ERA in series finales (one ER, 5.0 IP), while Reed has a 1.93 ERA (three ER, 14.0 IP).
So, while MSU's pitching has on the whole improved this season, there are still a lot of questions to sort out.