Tigers hands Bulldogs first loss

BATON ROUGE -- The 14th-ranked LSU baseball team continued its late-inning heroics Saturday as third baseman Will Harris broke a 6-6 tie with a two-run double in the eighth, dealing top-ranked Mississippi State its first loss of the season by a score of 8-6 at Alex Box Stadium.

The Tigers (19-6, 2-3) posted their 12th come-from-behind win of the year, turning a 6-3 deficit around with a five-run eighth inning. The Bulldogs (18-1, 4-1) suffered their first setback after starting the season 18-0.

LSU junior right-hander Derik Olvey (5-0, 1.71 ERA) puts his perfect record on the line against MSU sophomore right-hander John Lalor (2-0, 3.38 ERA) in the rubber game at 1 p.m. Sunday.

Harris finished the game 2-for-4 with three RBI. Right fielder Quinn Stewart connected on a pivotal two-run homer as part of the eighth-inning rally, and catcher Matt Liuzza tied the game with an RBI single.

"We were swinging the bats, like they did yesterday," said head coach Smoke Laval. "Later on in the game, when you get your best swings off, good things will happen. Our game is a little bit of running. If you take that away, then you need a homer. We had a little bit of both with Stewart's (home run)."

Freshman Darryl Shaffer (2-0) earned the win, hurling 0.2 scoreless innings in relief of starter Clay Dirks.

MSU starter Josh Johnson handcuffed the Tigers through the first four innings, much like southpaw Brooks Dunn did Friday night.

Laval was ejected in the fifth inning when the Bulldogs would eventually take a 1-0 lead. Laval argued a checked swing by Jeffrey Rea on a pitch which was ruled a ball with one out and a runner at first. After a stolen base by left fielder Jeff Butts, catcher Edward Easley ripped an RBI double inside the left field line.

However, the LSU offense awoke after Laval's ejection with a three-run fifth that gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead. Shortstop Michael Hollander became LSU's first leadoff man to reach with a single up the middle.

First baseman Steven Waguespack, who was hitless in his last 20 at-bats, then lined a double to the left field gap to bring in Hollander. Two batters later, Harris produced a hard-hit double to the left field corner. Left fielder Bruce Sprowl closed the rally with another double to the right field wall, scoring Harris.

Three doubles -- two with two outs -- resulted in a 3-1 LSU advantage.

However, the Bulldogs produced a two-out double of their own in the sixth when Rutledge took Dirks' first pitch to the left field gap to tie the game at 3-3.

Centerfielder Jarred Bogany's error in the seventh helped MSU to reclaim the lead. Dirks surrendered a leadoff single to Rea, followed by an Easley double to the left field gap. Bogany misplayed the ball off the wall, allowing Rea to score and Easley to take third.

Shortstop Thomas Berkery took advantage of the miscue with a sacrifice fly to make it a 5-3 game.

Dirks was charged with another run in the eighth, before exiting after allowing six runs (five earned) in 7.1 innings of work. 

Freshman J.T. Wise ignited the eighth-inning rally with a one-out single off reliever Mike Valentine. Stewart then crushed a two-run blast over the centerfield wall for his eighth homer in his last 13 games.

Consecutive singles by Hollander and Waguespack forced MSU head coach Ron Polk to make the move to his closer, Brett Cleveland.

Liuzza immediately greeted Cleveland with the tying single to right field, scoring Hollander. Both Waguespack and Liuzza moved into scoring position on a double steal, giving Harris a chance to give the Tigers the lead for good.

Harris obliged and connected on a two-out, two-strike double just past the diving centerfielder to make it an 8-6 advantage the Tigers wouldn't relinquish.

"I was looking for a ball away the entire at-bat," said Harris. "I fouled a couple off, pitches that I could have hit. He kept living out there and left me one up that I could handle."

Senior Chase Dardar worked a perfect ninth to earn his second save and preserve the victory, including a strikeout to end the game.

"Dardar is a right-hander that can get lefties out, so the matchups became pretty good for us," said Laval.

Valentine (0-1) was tagged with the loss, allowing four runs on four hits in one inning of relief.

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