Coach John Cohen’s face was flushed. He rubbed his forehead. He rubbed his eyes. He seemed agitated after watching his team frustrated in a 3-1 loss to UCLA in game one of the College World Series Finals.
Now, his Mississippi State Bulldogs will attempt to become just the third team out of 11 to come back from a 1-0 deficit to win the best-of-three national championship series. Oregon State did it to North Carolina in 2006 and Fresno State also did it versus Georgia in 2008.
“I thought some things didn't go our way tonight, “Cohen said. The first run of the game scores on a hit and miss, ball hits us in the mask, no way to block it. Story for the day.”
“It doesn't happen a lot when you punch out 12 guys and your guys strike out twice. That's not an equation we lose a whole lot. But that's how the game works. They made the most of their opportunities. You do everything the right way and it doesn't happen for you.”
Well Mississippi State didn’t exactly do everything the right way. Catcher Nick Ammirati’s error on a sac-bunt led to two unearned runs in the 4th inning. That ended up being the difference in the game.
At the plate, the Bulldogs continuously played right into the hands of Bruins' starting pitcher Adam Plutko, swinging at pitches up in the zone. As a result, nine of the 18 outs he recorded came on fly balls.
Only two of those fly balls were close to dangerous. Trey Porter hammered the ball to right field with the bases loaded in the fourth, but right into the glove of Eric Filia. The other came from the very next Bulldogs’ batter when Ammirati led-off the 5th with a drive into the right field corner on which Filia made a spectacular play.
All six of the Bruins' hits came in the first four innings, and four of those from number-three hitter Filia and clean-up hitter Pat Valaika. Those two combined to drive in UCLA’s three runs and that was the game.
It spoiled a great performance by Bulldogs LHP Chad Girodo, who surrendered the Bruins two unearned runs on just three hits while striking out nine in a season-best 7.2 innings of relief. A ninth-round pick by the Blue Jays earlier this month, it was likely the last time Bulldogs fans will see Girodo pitch in a Mississippi State uniform. But if only based on his post-season performance over the last month, one has to believe Girodo’s got a nice future in front of him in pro ball.
As for the immediate future, the Bulldogs are now in a must-win situation to keep their season alive. A victory Tuesday night will simply buy them another chance to continue that chase for the first team national championship of any kind in school history.