By MATTHEW STEVENS
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen could even see on a computer screen his team had little life coming out of the two-hour rain delay Friday night.
It was the only view the third year Bulldogs skipper could have after being ejected by home plate umpire Burdis Williams for arguing an out call at home plate in the fourth inning.
The Bulldogs left 13 runners on base and simply couldn’t muster any offensive momentum in a disappointing 5-3 upset loss to Iowa at Dudy Noble Field.
“I think it’s obvious after the delay, and that’s my responsibility, we had very little focus,” Cohen said. “Poor at-bats, many, many walks on the mound and we got some guys trying to win the game with one swing.”
The Hawkeyes, which came in batting under .200 as a team through five games this season, put up more hits on MSU pitching than the Bulldogs had allowed in the 2011 season and got three multi-hit games out of the top four hitters in their lineup.
Iowa leadoff hitter Trevor Willis erased the memories of Iowa’s 10-6 loss to Georgia State in the previous game of this round robin tournament with a leadoff triple to start the game and would put the Hawkeyes (2-5) ahead early on a sacrifice by the very next batter.
“We didn’t play that well in the first game and I thought our guys did a much better job of competing and maintaining that focus through a very long day,” Iowa head coach Jack Dahm said.
Iowa’s ace pitcher Jarred Hippen controlled the MSU offense through four innings but just like last week at Kansas, was not allowed to earn the victory due to the weather and the Hawkeyes got four quality innings of relief from Zach Kenyon.
Iowa closer Kevin Lee, who was named to the preseason watch list for relievers by the College Baseball Writers of America, got his first save of the 2010 season after striking out Daryl Norris and Ryan Collins consecutively with the bases loaded to end the game.
“Those guys have been doing that all year,” Dahm said, “It’s a little disappointing that our ace keeps getting beat by the weather. Kevin Lee is one of the best closers in the country and he was 13 for 13 in save opportunities last year.”
Just after Mississippi State had tied the game on a walk by Hippen with the bases loaded, Williams called for the tarps to be placed on the field of Polk-Dement Stadium for a two hour and eight-minute delay and by the time play resumed, it was a battle of both team’s bullpens. Norris sent Cohen to the locker room after Jonathan Ogden tried to give State its first lead in the fourth inning by scoring on a single. While it appeared Ogden made it under the tag of Iowa catcher Tyson Blaser, Williams punched Ogden for the second out of the inning and seconds after had an irate Cohen in his face adamantly arguing his point. After a few minutes of being chin-to-chin, Williams signaled for Cohen to be ejected from his first game of the season.
“There’s some other things that were going on in the game that didn’t have a lot to do with Mississippi State that were pretty frustrating when you’re watching the game on Maroon to the Max (the school’s internet broadcast provider),” Cohen said. “There was some stuff we just couldn’t control.”
MSU relievers C.C. Watson and Andrew Busby allowed three earned runs in the 3 1/3 innings of work they had on the mound.
Bulldogs starting pitcher Devin Jones (1-2) took his second loss of the season by allowing two runs on four hits while striking out four in just 61 pitches before the showers came through Starkville.
“I thought Devin did a nice job and he’s able to get us a little deeper in this thing then who knows what might have happened,” Cohen said. “However, we had some runs out there that we didn’t score for many reasons but most were in our control, others were not.”
Of Mississippi State’s 27 outs Friday night, 11 of them were strikeouts and seven more never left the infield.
The Bulldogs will look to rebound with a doubleheader today against Georgia State (noon) and a revenge game against Iowa (4 p.m.) with sophomore right-hander Chris Stratton expected to get a start on the mound.