LSU (17-12, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) used two of its starting pitchers to curtail Mississippi State's comeback attempts. Lane Mestepey had allowed all three MSU runs when he was pulled from the game with the bases loaded in the seventh. Jake Tompkins, the Tigers' usual Sunday starter, took over with one out in the inning and held the Bulldogs hitless over the remainder of the game for his first save of the year.
Mississippi State (14-9-1, 4-4) pulled within a run of the Tigers in the fifth inning and again in the seventh, but three LSU runs in the eighth were ample insurance for LSU to set up Sunday's rubber game.
Hill, who was 4-for-5 with his first homer of the year and sixth double, also helped out defensively with assists on a pair of clutch double plays.
"We get two runs in the first and it kind of shuts (MSU) down," said Hill. "But we've got to come out tomorrow and do a little better."
The Bulldogs had cut LSU's lead to 2-1 in the fifth inning and had runners on first and second with one out when Hill turned in his first defensive gem. Retreating on his heels to grab a line drive from MSU designated hitter J.B. Tucker, Hill kept his balance long enough to double up Casey Long, the runner who had left too early from second.
Hill answered Mississippi State's run with a double in the bottom of the fifth that scored J.C. Holt, who led off the inning with a double of his own. Hill reached third on his double when left fielder Jon Mungle misplayed the ball, but his teammates left him stranded with a chance to build on a 3-1 lead. The Tigers left eight runners on base in the game, including two at third with less than two out.
"One of the things we had been doing well was getting guys in from third," said LSU coach Smoke Laval. "We'll probably take a win and keep leaving them at third, I guess. But you keep trying to do that (bring runners in) and win games the easy way. If we could have done that, it would have been easier for us."
Pinch hitter Eric Wiethorn, replacing 0-for-2 designated hitter Dustin Hahn, led off the sixth inning with a homer to left field that turned out to be the winning run for LSU.
Matthew Brinson made the score 4-3 in the seventh inning with a two-run homer to left field against Mestepey (W, 5-2), who spread ten hits over 6.1 innings while battling the shrinking strike zone of home plate umpire A.J. Lostaglio. Long and Brent Lewis followed the home run with singles, and Mestepey loaded the bases when he hit Tucker with a pitch.
Mungle went down swinging against Mestepey for the first out of the seventh, and the right-handed Tompkins was inserted to face the Bulldogs' leadoff hitter, Matthew Maniscalco. Throwing harder than Mestepey - and with the opposite hand - Tompkins got Maniscalco to go down swinging and made Chad Henry fly out to center to end the inning. Tompkins tallied four strikeouts in his 2.2 innings of work.
"I feel I did the job," said Tompkins. "We won the game. We held them off when we needed to.
"It was unusual for me to come out there in relief. I really had the adrenaline going and had to take a few deep breaths. But when I'm out there, pitching's pitching and it's nothing new."
Laval said Tompkins is considered a bullpen pitcher from this point on and would only get to start on Sundays if he isn't used in relief in the first two games. Tompkins, who was a relief pitcher as a freshman at Sacramento City College, is available to pitch in relief in Sunday's game against Mississippi State, said Laval.
Laval did not name a starter for the final game of the series but will choose from Lukas Guidroz, Clay Harris, Jason Vargas and Chad Vaught.
Hill started a two-out rally for LSU in the bottom of the eighth with a single that scored Chris Phillips, who had singled and advanced to second when pinch hitter Rocky Scelfo was hit by a pitch. Wally Pontiff doubled down the right field line to score Scelfo but was thrown out at third trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
After getting a runner on through a base on balls with one out in the ninth, Mississippi State ended the game when pinch hitter Robby Goodson hit into a 3-6-3 double play.
Starting pitcher Tanner Brock (3-2) took the loss for Mississippi State, throwing 4.1 innings with three runs and six hits. The Bulldogs used four more pitchers in the game, with none lasting over an inning and a third.