STARKVILLE — If Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen has his way, senior Wes Thigpen will wake up this morning oblivious to Thursday night”s humiliation, a 17-1 loss to Louisiana State that will be remembered as one of the most lopsided home losses in recent memory.
Call it selective amnesia.
Cohen wants Thigpen to go about his daily routine — work out, eat lunch, perhaps check his e-mail — then head back to Dudy Noble Field as if he is unaware of the lethargic performance Thursday that not only halted the Bulldogs” opportunity to win the Southeastern Conference”s West Division for the first time since 1984, but also endangered their chance to be one of the eight teams that advances to the SEC tournament in Hoover, Ala.
Baseball is played in stretches, so you have to be careful what you remember, Cohen said. Think about the 10 runs MSU allowed in the sixth inning and, suddenly, that grounder chopping your way at third base is a little harder to field, or that fly ball in shallow left field is a tad more difficult to locate.
Recall how freshman right-hander Kevin Gausman fired a four-hit, one-run performance in 7 2/3 innings and the baseball twirling your way is harder to hit.
If you want to remember something, Cohen said try this: “Remember what made us 9-1 in our last 10 games instead of focusing on this right here,” he said. Minutes earlier he held a team meeting after losing Game 1 of the final SEC regular-season series in front of an announced crowd of 6,161.
Whether the Bulldogs (33-20) are able to forgive themselves and forget will depend on tonight”s final outcome. For despite their latest and greatest blunders, the Bulldogs are still within reach of the SEC tournament. With two days remaining in the regular season, Mississippi State is in a four-way tie for second place in the Western Division at 13-15. Alabama clinched a spot in the SEC tournament and moved into first Thursday after defeating No. 2 South Carolina 2-1 in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Wins tonight and Saturday afternoon by MSU will in all likelihood send it to the SEC tournament next week. If the Bulldogs split the remaining games, they can still qualify, but they will need help from other teams.
So perhaps Thigpen will wake up this morning, or before sunrise, and agree with his coach”s premise. Thigpen also might try a different strategy, one he contemplated minutes after Thursday”s game.
“You want to keep it in the back of your mind,” he said after going 0-for-3. “You want to keep that chip on your shoulder and know we got embarrassed tonight, on TV and wherever.
“You got embarrassed. You got to keep that in your mind and come out tomorrow and try to embarrass them.”
The embarrassment started early. In the third, Mikie Mahtook broke open a 1-1 game with a single to left field, scoring the first of his four runs.
The Bulldogs trailed 7-1 after starter Luis Pollorena was knocked around in the fifth. He gave up a double to right center to Raph Rhymes that scored a run and another double to left by Mason Katz. Mahtook then slammed a two-run shot to left-center field. After hitting Austin Nola by a pitch, Pollorena”s night was officially over. He last 4 1/3 innings, allowing seven runs on seven hits. He also had two walks and just one strikeout. Too many times, LSU batters guessed right on his first pitch, sending it to a gap in the outfield.
The sixth resembled one of the Bulldogs” worst innings this season. Tim Statz, Devin Jones, Andrew Busby, and Daryl Norris allowed LSU to sent 14 batters to the plate — from Katz”s three-run double down the third-base line to JaCoby Jones” two-run home run.
“I just didn”t feel like we had great energy, which is very disappointing,” Cohen said. “Our kids worked really really hard yesterday. Maybe we worked them too hard in preparation.”
Meanwhile, the only offense MSU mustered was Brent Brownlee”s squeeze bunt in the second that scored Nick Vickerson, who reached after being hit by a pitch. It marked one of the few mistakes on the evening for Gausman.
“We know where they”re weak, and we just really didn”t expose as much as we needed to,” Thigpen said. “But we”ll get after it tomorrow and expose that weakness.”
Perhaps the Tigers (35-19, 12-16) were the more desperate team. After all, they must sweep this series to have a chance to continue their streak of three consecutive NCAA berths under coach Paul Mainieri.
“I”ve been on both sides of this kind of game,” Mainieri said. “We expect them to come out ready to play tomorrow, so we have to be ready.”
MSU is scheduled to start left-hander Nick Routt (2-2, 3.86 ERA), while LSU is scheduled to start freshman right-hander Kurt McCune (7-3, 3.30).
The Bulldog senior class will be honored tonight in a pregame ceremony.