Digging deep when it matters most

Goody and Tigers survive late Mississippi State surge for 4-3 win.

On a day when a little luck of Irish might’ve come in handy, LSU closer Nick Goody reached for something a little different instead Saturday night: The heart of a lion.


With trouble all around him at Alex Box Stadium – created by himself – the Tigers’ feisty junior got a spirited visit from Paul Mainieri.


Message delivered, Goody finished off Mississippi State in dramatic fashion for a 4-3 victory.


With the bases loaded and no outs, Goody retired the next three hitters, finally securing the win and the series victory on the opening weekend of SEC play when he struck out Trey Porter on three nasty fast balls.


The last out left the tying run stranded on second base and finally allowed the boisterous Alex Box Stadium crowd of 7,504 to exhale.


Chris Sciambra: Key RBI single in the 6th inning.

Goody was quick to credit to the Box faithful after his second save.


“I noticed he was late on the fastball at the knees,” said Goody, who surrendered a go-ahead homer to Mitch Slauter in the 10th inning Friday night. “What really got me was when everybody in the stands erupted. I was like ‘All right. I’m about to get it here.’ ”


To get it, Goody had to survive a sticky ninth inning.


LSU (16-3, 2-0 SEC) led 4-2 going into the ninth after the Bulldogs (14-7, 0-2) drew closer on Porter’s solo home run off Brent Bonvillain. The Tigers had to gut out the rest of the inning when Nick Rumbelow sandwiched called third strikes to Hunter Renfroe and Wes Rea around a four-pitch walk.


Mainieri called for Goody to slam the door, but not before he swung it wide open first.


State third baseman Phillip Casey tapped a roller through the middle for a leadoff infield single. Working carefully to Slauter, Goody issued a walk and the drama really began.


Matthew Britton put a bunt down in front of the plate that Tigers catcher Ty Ross pounced on, but threw to second base. Slauter beat the throw and the bases were loaded with no outs.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri gathers his team around him in the 9th inning after Mississippi State loaded the bases with no outs.


That prompted Mainieri’s visit.


“I’m basically told them let’s remember we’re the home team and the worse that happens is they tie the game and we have a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth,” Mainieri said.


That alternative never became necessary.


Goody got Adam Frazier to pop out to shallow center, retired Demarcus Henderson on a deeper fly out that scored Casey and then blazed the three strikes past Porter, who finished the night 4-for-5.


“You’ve just got to have a cutthroat mentality,” said Goody, adding he wanted the ball again after allowing the home run on Friday.


“I told them I wanted to pitch (Saturday). He has faith in me and I’m thankful for that.”


Until the final commotion involving Rumbelow and Goody, the story of the game was Ryan Eades’ gritty performance, LSU’s sterling infield defense and a Tigers’  offense that churned out all it could from very few hits.


Eades grinded out 7 innings on a night when he wasn’t razor-sharp. He allowed eight singles and never got through an inning unscathed and struck out only two.


But LSU turned four double plays behind him – in the second, third, sixth and seventh frames – to keep him in charge and leave the Bulldogs frustrated.


“We hit into four double plays (Saturday),” State coach John Cohen said. “On three of those, we started a runner and had a ball fouled off. It’s hard to hit-and-run several times in an at-bat.”


The biggest twin killing came in the third when Eades gave up back-to-back singles to Britton and Frazier to begin the frame. Henderson bunted in the air and Eades dashed in and caught the ball in the air. With Frazier hung up between first and second base, Eades threw to JaCoby Jones covering at first for the double play.


Porter followed by yanking a single through the right side to produce the Bulldogs’ first run, but the double play had squashed the chance for a big inning.


Meanwhile, the LSU hitters struggled to piece together much damage, but managed to chip away against Mississippi State starter Nick Routt and reliever Evan Mitchell.


Tyler Hanover: Drove in one run, scored another

The Tigers bolted in front quickly when Routt hit Jones with a pitch with one out and Mason Katz cranked the next pitch over the left-field fence for a two-run homer, his fourth of the season and his only hit Saturday as he struck out three times for the second night in a row.


Tyler Hanover was at the heart of LSU’s other two runs.


The only Tiger with more than one hit, Hanover stretched the lead to 3-1 in the fourth inning when he drilled a hot shot off the pitcher’s mound and into center field for an RBI hit after Ross walked and moved up on Austin Nola’s bunt.


Then in the sixth inning, Hanover punched a one-out single to right, got to second on Mitchell’s wild pitch and raced home when Chris Sciambra rolled a base hit through the middle with two outs.


Hanover credited the State pitchers for throwing strikes in any count and in good locations to fuel the Tigers’ struggles in the first two games of the series. LSU has 11 hits and 27 strikeouts in 18 innings against the Bulldogs.


“We’ve got to swing the bat and hope it finds a hole,” Hanover said. “Mississippi State’s pitchers have come out and commanded the zone very well. They’ve thrown strikes with every pitch they’ve got and have been real confident.”


Regardless of how well the Bulldogs have pitched or how much the Tigers have struggled, the series has gone in LSU’s favor with the finale set for 1 p.m. Sunday.


Freshman Aaron Nola (3-0) will get his first taste of SEC play against State right-hander Kendall Graveman (1-1).

SERIES UPDATE: LSU-Mississippi State


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