Tigers bounce back - beat Bulldogs 11-6

BATON ROUGE – It seemed only fitting for Clay Dirks to get the start on Saturday. <br><br> Most folks got the feeling Lane Mestepey might get the hook for the weekend rotation. Following Mestepey's loss at South Carolina and the Tigers minor setback Friday night in the series opener against Mississippi State, LSU coach Smoke Laval knew he had to go with the Tigers' hottest hurler to date.

Dirks responded with a dazzling debut in his first SEC start. Along with Dirks' dandy, the LSU Tigers paced a 13-hit attack with three home runs in an 11-6 win over Mississippi State at Alex Box Stadium Saturday.


LSU (20-4, 3-2 in SEC) evened the weekend series at 1-1 with Saturday's victory. The teams will meet in the series finale today at 1 p.m.


"We were just better than them today, just like they were better than us last night" said Laval.


Ryan Patterson went 3-for-5 and was a triple short of the cycle with a solo home run, single and double. Jon Zeringue hit a 3-run shot in a 3-for-3 showing and Nick Stavinoha chipped in a solo shot.

Bouncing back from a 7-3 loss Friday, the Tigers did so in dominating fashion. Dirks, who got the start in place of usual Saturday hurler Lane Mestepey, pitched eight complete innings allowing two earned runs on five hits with seven strikeouts.


"I felt pretty good," said Dirks, who had been LSU's midweek starter. "Every time I go out I get stronger. My focus and concentration gets better in every game. I was hitting my spots and (LSU pitching coach) Brady (Wiederhold) were on the same page like we were earlier this year at Tulane."


Dirks had the option of attending Mississippi State when he graduated from Hernando (Miss.) High School. But inevitably he chose LSU saying he wanted to play for the best.


"I know a few guys on the team and some of the coaches," Dirks said. "But there is now hate relationship there."


Laval said he intends on keeping Dirks (5-0) in the weekend rotation saying he will start the redshirt freshman at Auburn next Saturday.


"He was adequate but that is him," Laval said. "He is good enough but still not where he needs to be. He had only given up three hits going into the seventh and they only had two or three good swings on him. Right now he is going to pitch again next Saturday."


Dirks neutralized the Bulldog attack while the LSU offense finally found its rhythm. The Tigers broke a scoreless tie when Patterson ripped a 2-RBI double in the bottom of the third.


"It took us a while, but we finally got it working," Laval said.


Mississippi State (14-7, 2-3) cut the lead in half 2-1 when Steve Gendron singled in the fourth and scored on a Brad Jones double.


But LSU had an answer as the floodgates opened in the home half of the fourth. Blake Gill led off with a single to left field. Matt Liuzza followed suit with a base hit to right. Clay Harris loaded the bases with an infield single and a Zeringue single to left scored Gill and Liuzza for a 4-1 LSU lead. Two batters later Matt Horwath ripped a 2-RBI single to right making it a 6-1 game.


"I hit the ball good with runners in scoring position and that is what you want," Zeringue said.


Patterson led off the fifth inning with a solo blast and Zeringue all but sealed the deal with his 3-run homer later in the inning. Stavinoha chipped in his solo job in the sixth to close the Tiger offense.


"I got away from my approach yesterday swinging at breaking balls in the dirt," Patterson said. "I wanted to see the ball up and find something to drive and I did that today."


The Bulldogs made the score closer than it truly was when LSU reliever Collin Smith gave up four

earned runs on four hits in the top of the ninth. Smith faced nine batters in the ninth throwing 44 pitches. Dirks threw 105 in eight innings.


"The big problem for us was the ballpark played small today and we weren't able to take advantage of that and they did," said Mississippi State head coach Ron Polk.

Jones led the Bulldogs' 9-hit attack going 3-for-4 with a double and two singles.

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