Mississippi State head coach John Cohen said Saturday that his knee-jerk reaction was that his team wasn’t getting quality at-bats.
A day later after a disappointing 8-3 loss to Sacred Heart, a middle-of-the-road school out of the Northeast Conference, he’s perfectly confident of the answer: His team must win low-scoring games.
“In the last four innings, they’re throwing a guy that’s essentially throwing batting practice and we don’t deal with it very well,” Cohen said. “I think our kids usually have more trouble with (assistant coach Nick) Mingone throwing batting practice than that kid but we went eight fly ball putouts in a row. You just can’t do that.”
Nick Leiningen, the freshman left-hander that the Bulldogs third-year manager described as a glorified batting practice thrower, pitched four no-hit innings allowing base runners on four walks in 66 pitches.
Leiningen, a 6-foot-1 southpaw from Millwood, N.Y., held No. 10 LSU to just one earned run over six innings in a loss four days ago in Baton Rouge.
However, in the same breath Cohen gave the impression after the game Sunday that Mississippi State (12-4) was essentially out lucked after 19 of their 27 outs were fly outs in the large confines of Dudy Noble Field.
“We hit a lot of balls hard but obviously with these new bats, all these hard hit balls aren’t going to leave the yard anymore – they’re all getting caught,” senior third baseman Jarrod Parks said. “That’s just not going to get it done ending the game with 10 straight fly ball outs.”
Parks was the only MSU player Sunday to reach base three times, all on walks, as they left 13 runners on base and the seven through nine hitters in the Bulldogs order combined for 0-for-9.
Even through MSU won the weekend series with the Pioneers (5-6), the Bulldogs were 3-for-20 with runners in scoring position.
“We definitely don’t feel good after losing the Sunday game at all,” Parks said. “I think if we change the barrel angle on those hard hit balls a little bit then we’re scoring five, six or seven runs in an inning.”
Sacred Heart scored four runs in the fourth inning off base hits in an 0-2 count situations as designated hitter Tyler Curry and leadoff hitter Steve Tedesco found open spaces with their protective swings.
The Pioneers were led at the plate with Curry’s three RBIs and a four-hit day from freshman catcher Derick Horn.
“I’m watching bases loaded a guy takes an awful swing that bounces over our third baseman’s head and that scores two runs,” Cohen said. “I think in this new age with the new bat what you’re going to do if you’re them is throw BP and put your outfielders on the wall and say ‘please hit it to us.’”
Freshman right-hander Evan Mitchell suffered his first loss of his college career as he struggled with command issues. The Marietta, Geo., native gave up five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings.
“You simply can’t give up eight runs in this ballpark because there’s no place here that leads itself to offense,” Cohen said. “You want to hide your freshman arms most of the time but they got exposed today.”
Mississippi State will practice today before playing Eastern Illinois Tuesday and then traveling to Nashville for a mid-week game at Lipscomb before starting Southeastern Conference play at Vanderbilt this weekend.
Cohen said he wasn’t sure which mid-week game but confirmed left-handed starter Nick Routt would get to the mound against either EIU or Lipscomb.