By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
A 22-year-old memory gave John Cohen solace.
After two days in Nashville, his Mississippi State team had not scored a single run against No. 2-ranked Vanderbilt. The Bulldogs lost 10-0 on Friday, then 4-0 on Saturday, collecting seven hits in both games combined.
That looks bad on the stat sheet, but Cohen prefers to view the losses in a broader context.
“Their pitching staff, if there’s a better pitching staff in the country, I would be shocked,” he said Monday. “Kind of reminds me a lot as a player in ’89 facing LSU, with Ben McDonald and Russell Springer – I think they had five or six big leaguers on the their pitching staff at that time. I kind of feel that way about Vanderbilt.”
That year, Cohen was a player for MSU, which actually beat that LSU team twice in Baton Rouge, thanks in large part to Cohen’s home run off McDonald, who went on to pitch in the majors for nine seasons.
Vanderbilt was powered on Friday by future first-round draft pick Sonny Gray, who hurled 71⁄3 innings of four-hit ball and struck out 10. On Saturday, Grayson Garvin allowed just two hits over 7 innings.
Despite those results, the Bulldogs felt they were putting in good swings.
“We just hit a lot of balls right at people,” outfielder Ryan Collins said. “The first two days we were able to get guys on base, we just couldn’t capitalize once we did.”
The offense finally came on Sunday, when MSU (15-6) overcame a 6-1 deficit to pull out a 9-8 win. State had 11 hits and got the go-ahead run off normally rock-solid closer Navery Moore in the eighth inning.
That game gave MSU a shot of confidence, along with its first win at Vandy in nine years.
“Having a big team win like that on Sunday was huge,” Collins said, “because we had a bunch of different guys contributing, a lot of freshmen coming in and getting big hits, freshmen on the mound. It was a big momentum swing to get out of that weekend just getting one game.”
Brownlee hurt again
n At least it’s not the shoulder this time.
Since his junior year at Oxford High School, junior outfielder Brent Brownlee has injured each shoulder twice, most recently suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder early last season.
On Sunday, Brownlee’s right foot was bothering him after he stepped awkwardly on first base while legging out a bunt. He tried to stay in the game but left in the bottom half of the inning.
“He was in real pain, and Brent’s a really tough kid,” Cohen said. “When he tells me he can’t go, he can’t go.”
Brownlee, who has made 16 starts and is batting .283, had X-rays done Monday and was expecting results today. Despite his history, he’s hoping for the best.
“I’m just keeping a positive attitude about it,” said Brownlee, who’s also got a sore left shin from being hit by a pitch last week. “We’ll just wait and see, just pray it’s not anything serious.”
Routt in Sunday mix
n Junior right-hander Nick Routt, who missed most of the 2010 season with an elbow injury, could be a weekend starter again soon.
Routt made his 2011 debut last week, throwing a solid 31⁄3 innings against Lipscomb. He’s scheduled to throw 25-30 pitches today in a simulated intrasquad scrimmage and will be a candidate to draw the start Sunday against Auburn.
Cohen said other starting candidates are sophomore Andrew Busby, freshman Evan Mitchell and junior Tim Statz. Freshman C.T. Bradford, who started against Vandy and lasted only one inning, will likely return to relief duty.
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.