State scorches LSU 9-2 in SEC Tourney opener

HOOVER, Ala. – The losses are beginning to mount at the SEC Tournament.

Dating back to 2003, LSU lost its fourth straight game at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium dropping a 9-2 decision to Mississippi State in the first round of the SEC Tournament Wednesday.

LSU returns to action Thursday morning at 10 a.m. versus the loser of Tennessee and South Carolina in an elimination game.

The Tigers (38-19) lost in the championship game in 2003 to Alabama, then dropped back-to-back contests last year to Georgia then Florida before this morning's seven-run debacle.

"This is the 23rd time that I have had a team in the SEC Tournament, and I think that this is the first time I have ever had at 10 a.m.," said Mississippi State coach Ron Polk. "If they all go this way for us, I think I want to play more at 10 a.m.

Senior Lane Mestepey gave up four runs lasting two-thirds of the first inning as Mississippi State (37-20) avenged last weekend's series defeat at the hands of LSU in Starkville.

"We found a lot of real estate in the first few innings, and I am proud of my guys for getting A.J. (pitcher Alan Johnson) some runs," Polk said.

Mestepey (6-8) threw 32 pitches, 21 for strikes, but gave up four runs, three earned, on six hits. Coach Smoke Laval went to the bullpen early calling on Jordan Faircloth, who managed the final out of the inning. Faircloth pitched the next three frames but fared no better allowing four runs (all earned) on six hits.

"We did not start out tough today," Laval said. "Lane got four runs fast, so from then on we were just trying to stop the bleeding. We were not on the run today and Mississippi State was. They refused to give in today, and played better we did."

While the Bulldogs had little problem hitting the ball, it was the exact opposite for LSU. The Tigers failed to have a runner reach base until the third inning. But even with runners aboard, LSU couldn't deliver stranding 13 base runners in the game. The Tigers managed nine hits, but scored two runs, both of which came in the seventh inning on a Blake Gill 2-RBI single.

LSU had runners at second and third in fourth and had runners at the corners with two outs after Gill's RBIs in the seventh but could get nothing else.

The Tigers' offensive leader Ryan Patterson summed up LSU's lackluster showing going 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. Bruce Sprowl, Derek Hebert and Gill accounted for six of LSU's nine hits each going 2 for 4 in the game.

Alan Johnson (4-6) got the victory for the Bulldogs. In 6 2/3 innings pitched, Johnson allowed just two earned runs on seven hits. Although Johnson struck out seven, he walked five of the 26 batters he faced giving LSU more than enough opportunities.

"Johnson was really good today," Patterson said. "He hit the right spots, and kept making pitches that kept getting us off balance today. He kept the ball down better today than Friday. He hit his spots and changed his speeds well. He mixed in balls today that we did not see on Friday night."

Eric Ramirez came on in relief of Faircloth in the fifth and worked 3 2/3 innings. Ramirez gave up one run on five hits with three strikeouts and two walks. Eric English worked the final frame striking out two.

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