Ejections, controversy mark Mississippi State’s loss to Georgia

Published 1:04 am Sunday, April 7, 2024

STARKVILLE — A play at home plate saved Mississippi State a run, but might have cost it a lot more.

An altercation at the end of the eighth inning in Saturday night’s game against Georgia led to the ejection of six players from Mississippi State and five from Georgia. A total of five players were suspended for the series finale that begins at 1 p.m. Sunday in Starkville.

Georgia’s Clayton Chadwick hit a home run in the top of the ninth inning to give the visiting Bulldogs a 3-2 victory at Dudy Noble Field.

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The result was not the first thing on everyone’s mind, though. The controversy began when Georgia’s Tre Phelps hit a two-out double and Dillon Carter tried to score from first base.

Carter slid headfirst into the plate and was tagged out by MSU catcher Johnny Long. Long then yelled at Carter and made contact with him after the play, including apparently kneeing Carter in the ribs.

The home plate umpire quickly separated the two players, but a number of Georgia players came out of the dugout and Mississippi State’s fielders rushed toward home plate.

The incident led to a 40-minute replay review, and ultimately the 11 total ejections. The ejected players were not announced, but a host of players for both teams were removed from the game.

For Mississippi State, Long, Hunter Hines, Dakota Jordan, Amani Larry and Logan Kohler — all starters — were removed. Georgia’s ejections included starters Phelps, Fernando Gonzalez and Slate Alford.

On Sunday morning, the Southeastern Conference announced that Long and Kohler, Mississippi State’s starting catcher and third baseman, respectively, will be suspended for Sunday’s series finale in Starkville. For Georgia,  Gonzalez, Henry Hunter and Daniel Padysak will be suspended. Gonzalez is Georgia’s starting catcher and Hunter is his backup. Padysak is a relief pitcher who has appeared in seven games this season.

An ejection normally carries at least a one-game suspension. It can be as long as four games, if a player joins an altercation from their position on the field. In its statement announcing the suspensions for Sunday’s game, the SEC did not indicate that any longer suspensions were forthcoming.

“The ejections on Saturday night were the result of the application of NCAA Rule 5.16.c which states that team personnel who leave their position to potentially participate in a verbal altercation or physical confrontation shall be ejected and suspended for one game,” the SEC said in a statement announcing the suspensions. “After further video review by the Conference office and consultation with the NCAA, the player suspensions were narrowed to five players.”

The decision to eject Mississippi State’s players left head coach Chris Lemonis irate. He argued that his players were already on the field, and did not come out of the dugout, and that none of them were involved in a fight. No punches were thrown between players from either team.

“That’s bad. That’s not the interpretation of the rule. If that’s the interpretation of the rule, then everybody should have been thrown out and it should have been a forfeit,” Lemonis said. “But it was who came out of the dugout, that we can identify, who didn’t have a hoodie on? My team was on the field. What are they supposed to do? They didn’t come in aggressive. They’re coming off the field to congratulate their teammate and my entire lineup gets taken out?”

Lemonis said in his postgame press conference that he wasn’t sure who made the decision on the ejections — the on-field umpires or someone in the SEC office — but was hopeful any suspensions could be avoided before the start of Sunday’s game at 1 p.m. He’ll be without two of his starters, but will be able to keep most of his lineup intact.

“Hopefully we’ll make some sense. We’ll slow down, say that wasn’t right, appeal it or whatever we have to do, and look up and let’s let the two teams play baseball,” Lemonis said after Saturday’s game.