MSU’s best power source has struggled in SEC games … and stranded runners pile up.
By Brad Locke
Small ball is what John Cohen is all about, but the Mississippi State coach wouldn’t mind having a few more guys like Connor Powers.
The Bulldogs have shown the ability to score runs – witness 23 in two games against South Carolina a couple of weeks ago – but they’ve also been known to go stone cold. In last weekend’s series against Georgia, State (14-10, 2-4 SEC) totaled nine runs and stranded 36 base runners in three losses.
Heading into this weekend’s series at Western Division-leading Arkansas (16-4, 6-0), MSU ranks ninth in the SEC in runs scored (141) and is 11th in hitting (.287).
Powers, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound junior first baseman, is hitting .304 with a team-high four home runs and 22 RBIs. He and junior second baseman Jet Butler, who leads MSU in batting (.382) and RBIs (23), are the only Bulldogs who’ve been reliable run producers.
“I think in order for us to be good, Connor Powers has to be good,” Cohen said. “We need him. What we really need is four or five of him.”
Powers has struggled in SEC play, hitting just .150 with two RBIs and 11 strikeouts. Both those RBIs came Sunday in the Georgia series finale. Including that game, Powers has gone 7-for-11 at the plate with five RBIs.
When he or Butler, who’s batting .292 in league play, are struggling, the Bulldogs are struggling.
“We’re not an overly skilled offensive club,” Cohen said. “I thought our hitters in some cases were overmatched” against Georgia.
What could help State stay afloat is its starting pitching, specifically Tyler Whitney, today’s starter, and Nick Routt, who’ll go Saturday.
Whitney is 2-1 with a 2.82 ERA, and Routt (2-1, 2.56 ERA) hasn’t pitched like the freshman he is.
The staff’s cumulative ERA is 4.56, eighth in the SEC, but 5.33 in league games.
“I think our kids really sense on weekends when Whitney and Routt are on the mound, we have a real chance to win the game,” Cohen said.
n Tonight: Mississippi State LHP Tyler Whitney (2-1, 2.82 ERA) vs. Arkansas LHP Dallas Keuchel (3-0, 3.00)
n Saturday: Mississippi State LHP Nick Routt (2-1, 2.56) vs. Arkansas RHP T.J. Forrest (1-1, 4.12)
n Sunday: Mississippi State TBA vs. Arkansas LHP Drew Smyly (2-0, 1.80)