HOOVER, Ala. – John Cohen seemed somewhat taken aback by the question.
After Mississippi State’s 7-5 loss to Florida in the first round of the SEC Tournament on Wednesday, the third-year coach was asked if there was a sense of urgency about his team with elimination staring it in the face.
“This was our 56th game, and I can’t think of one where we didn’t have a sense of urgency,” Cohen said. “That’s who we are. We hadn’t been in the SEC Tournament in three years. Urgency: That’s my middle name. And that’s what we’re recruiting, is urgency.”
He went on to use the word “urgency” four more times in his answer, and if one thing has marked this team, it’s been the mindset of trying to chase down success no matter how elusive it sometimes seems.
Wednesday provided a microcosm of that pursuit, as MSU saw a 5-2 lead evaporate in one swing – Brian Johnson’s grand slam – to lift the No. 3-ranked Gators, a team that perhaps has more talent that State but probably not more confidence.
While Johnson’s blow was a brutal one to MSU, senior Nick Vickerson didn’t seem fazed and was already looking ahead to today’s game with Western Division champ and No. 2 seed Arkansas (36-19).
“We’ve got a tough group of guys, we’ve got a lot of senior leadership,” Vickerson said. “It’s tough to lose a game like that, but we’re going to come back (today) optimistic and try to get us another win.”
The Bulldogs will send junior left-hander Nick Routt (2-2, 3.83 ERA) to the mound today against Arkansas ace D.J. Baxendale (8-2, 1.62), who threw 8 1/3 innings against Ole Miss one week ago and then worked an inning of relief on Saturday.
The Razorbacks took two of three from MSU in Fayetteville earlier this season. Routt gave up six runs on eight hits in three innings in the second game of that series; Baxendale, a sophomore right-hander, did not pitch in that weekend.
“He’s really got it done for them, the second half of the season especially,” Cohen said of Baxendale. “He’s a force to be reckoned with.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Mississippi State LHP Nick Routt (2-2, 3.83) vs. Arkansas RHP D.J. Baxendale (8-2, 1.62)
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal