Bulldogs' rally falls short; so does series

STARKVILLE – After 221/2 hours, two rain delays and 33 combined runs, John Cohen still wanted more baseball.
Wish not granted.
Cohen’s Mississippi State squad fell 17-16 to No. 22 Alabama on Sunday in a game that began Saturday but was suspended by rain and lightning. Even a one-hour extension from the SEC wasn’t enough to allow a third game.
Rules state that a Sunday game can not start after 4 p.m. The extension allowed for a 5 p.m. start, but the marathon Game 2 didn’t end until just after 5.
“If the game ended at 4:35 or before, they asked me if it was OK if we played the third game. And I said, ‘Guys, I can make it real easy – I want to play. We want to play, period. It doesn’t matter when, where,’” Cohen said.
“But rules are in place to protect visiting institutions who have a long way to go, and in the case of Alabama here, you have final exams (this week).”
Just as in Friday’s 10-8 loss, an MSU rally came up short. Nine runs and five homers over the last two innings weren’t enough.
“Mississippi State’s not a moral victory baseball institution, it’s a winning baseball institution,” Cohen said.
To get more wins, MSU (21-26, 6-17 SEC) needs to get better pitching, sharper fielding and more consistent hitting.
Cohen had to use six pitchers in all, five of them on Sunday. Lee Swindle (1-4), who picked up in the sixth where starter Nick Routt left off, was tagged with the loss. He gave up five runs on three hits in 1.1 innings.
The Bulldogs made three errors, including a two-out miscue in the ninth that preceded May’s three-run homer.
“We have some things we’re not doing very well – we’re not defending in the infield very well, we’re obviously not locating pitches really well, and those two things are really hurting us,” Cohen said.
The final offensive numbers were nice for MSU, including the 17 hits. But they were shut out from the second through seventh innings.
“You look at the scoreboard right now, we got seven in the first and then a bunch of zeros,” said Connor Powers, “and the zeros are because we didn’t make enough adjustments as hitters to the pitcher and what he was doing.”
Powers was 3-for-5 with two homers and four RBIs.
The day began with MSU leading 7-3 after five innings. The Crimson Tide (32-15, 14-9) scored eight times in the seventh before rain and lightning halted play for nearly three hours. Alex Kubal’s two-out grand slam, which broke a 7-7 tie, highlighted the inning.
Kubal finished the game 4-for-5 with five RBIs.
It was a 13-7 Bama lead before consecutive home runs by Russ Sneed, Powers and Ryan Duffy – the latter landed on Lakeview Drive beyond the right field wall – cut the deficit to 13-11. State added another run before the inning ended.
But Alabama scored four in the ninth, three of them on Brandon May’s second homer of the game.
Adam Scott, who was scheduled to start Game 3, had set down the Bulldogs in the seventh just before the rains came. But he got lit up for five homers before leaving with two outs in the ninth.
Nathan Kilcrease (3-2) worked one inning to get the win.

Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal