EDINBURG — When UTRGV’s Austin Siener hit a fly ball, Mississippi State center fielder Jake Mangum took a few steps to his right, then backtracked and sprinted left to pick up the ball off the grass.
Mangum is ranked as one of the top 50 college prospects for the 2018 Major League Baseball draft by Baseball America, but he looked completely lost in the dense fog on Monday at UTRGV Baseball Stadium. Not long after Siener pulled into third with a triple in the fourth inning, umpires and the two managers met near home plate and called off UTRGV’s matchup against No. 27 Mississippi State.
“You don’t want to feel like a little sissy. ‘Oh, we can’t see the ball. We can’t play.’ You want to play. We’re all geared up to play,” UTRGV coach Derek Matlock said. “But in the grand scheme of things, I just gave my sense of, ‘Dang, I don’t want to lose a game because we can’t see a routine fly ball.’”
The game ended with Mississippi State leading 4-0, but neither the result nor any individual stats will be officially counted.
MSU’s lead was due in part to the fog. The Bulldogs got on the board first when Luke Alexander singled to left, advanced to third on a wild pitch and throwing error, and then scored on a groundout. After Tanner Poole was hit by a pitch, Rowdey Jordan hit a ball to left field that landed between UTRGV center fielder Coleman Grubbs, left fielder Elijah Alexander and shortstop Ivan Estrella. The trio appeared to have difficulty tracking the ball off the bat.
“At first, it wasn’t too bad. And then, once the game kept going on, I started seeing less,” Grubbs said. “I had to squint and stuff. At the end of it, I couldn’t see the umpire. I was just out there.”
Grubbs said he was relying on his infielders for cues on how to track fly balls. Though he was disappointed in the game being canceled, he acknowledged that it was probably in the best interest of the players’ safety.
“One time, (the infielders) both looked at me, and I took off running one way, and the ball was completely the other direction, and the right fielder caught it,” Grubbs said. “It was just horrible.”
UTRGV junior Juan Carreon II, a McAllen Memorial grad, was making his first career start. He kept Mississippi State scoreless on one hit, two walks and a hit batter through three innings before being tagged for four runs on four hits during the fourth inning.
Typically a bullpen arm, Carreon was expected to struggle the second time through the batting order, Matlock said.
“Overall, he’s keeping good hitters off balance, because it’s a lot of sink and a lot of slowness,” Matlock said. “They don’t like to stay back and sit on that stuff, but he has to be the guy that comes in and throws a lot of strikes. … He’s a little bit jumpy, but he settled in and had some good innings in there.”