Rightfielder Jaron Shepherd’s bases-loaded single capped a two-run Mississippi State rally in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night as the Bulldogs posted a dramatic 6-5 win over LSU at Dudy Noble Field.
LSU (35-20, 12-17 SEC) was eliminated from contention for an SEC Tournament bid with Friday’s loss; however, the Tigers may still have a chance to receive an NCAA Tournament invitation when the regional berths are announced on May 30.
Mississippi State improved to 34-20 overall and 14-15 in league play.
The regular-season finale between the Tigers and Bulldogs is set for 2 p.m. CDT Saturday.
LSU held a 5-4 lead heading to the bottom of the ninth inning when the Bulldogs staged a rally against LSU closer Matty Ott (1-3). DH Trey Johnson grounded out to start the inning, but shortstop Jonathan Ogden singled and centerfielder C.T. Bradford walked.
Catcher Cody Freeman bounced a single into center field to score pinch runner Sam Frost, and the MSU runners advanced to second and third when LSU centerfielder Mikie Mahtook misplayed the ball. Ott walked third baseman Jarrod Parks intentionally to load the bases before Shepherd singled sharply off of second baseman Jacoby Jones’ glove to win the game.
“This obviously is a very difficult loss because our players fought so hard to win this game,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This game doesn’t diminish what our players have accomplished over the past three weeks to put us in a position to get a postseason bid. We have to put this behind us as quickly as possible and re-group for a very big game tomorrow. I strongly believe we still have significant goals to within our reach.”
Mississippi State reliever Taylor Stark (3-0) was credited with the win as he recorded the final out of the top of the ninth inning with two LSU runners on base. MSU right-hander Devin Jones, the third of four Bulldog pitchers, was brilliant in relief, holding the Tigers scoreless for 5.1 innings after LSU had taken a 5-0 lead.
LSU opened the scoring in the top of the second when Mahtook singled and scored on a two-out double by rightfielder Alex Edward.
The Tigers added four runs in the third to chase Mississippi State starter Nick Routt and take a 5-0 lead. Mahtook delivered a run-scoring single and shortstop Austin Nola ripped a two-run double to highlight the uprising.
Mississippi State cut the lead to 5-1 in the third on a solo homer by Shepherd, and the Bulldogs scored single runs in the fourth, fifth and seventh to narrow the gap to 5-3.
LSU starter Kurt McCune threw 95 pitches over five innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on six hits with two walks and seven strikeouts.