Down to the wire

Mississippi State designated hitter Cody Freeman's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth inning Friday night lifted the Bulldogs to an 8-7 win over second-ranked LSU at Dudy Noble Field.

LSU, which fell to 40-15 overall and 19-10 in the SEC, can clinch at least a share of the SEC championship with a win on Saturday. The Tigers could win the league championship outright with a win Saturday and an Ole Miss loss to Arkansas in Fayetteville. Ole Miss defeated Arkansas, 9-3, Friday night.


LSU and Ole Miss enter Saturday’s action tied for first place in the conference standings with 19-10 records. Florida, which dropped an 8-7 decision to Kentucky Friday, is 18-11 in the league. Alabama, which had its game at Auburn suspended in the fourth inning Friday, is 17-10.


Alabama and Auburn will resume their game at 11 a.m. Saturday with Auburn holding a 3-1 lead in the fourth inning. The teams will then play Game 3 Saturday to complete the series.


“It’s a tough loss, but we’ll be ready to come out (Saturday) to compete for a championship,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Tonight’s game demonstrated again that we have a team that refuses to give in. We’ve got to put this one behind us and prepare to be at our best on Saturday. It’s no surprise that the SEC championship is going to be decided on the final day of the regular season, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity.”


LSU trailed 7-3 entering the ninth inning Friday before erupting for four runs to tie the game at 7-7. MSU starter Nick Routt, bidding for his fifth complete game of the year, walked rightfielder Jared Mitchell and catcher Micah Gibbs before yielding an RBI single to shortstop Austin Nola.


Leftfielder Ryan Schimpf delivered an RBI groundout against reliever Jared Wesson to reduce State’s lead to 7-5. Wesson retired centerfielder Mikie Mahtook on a fly ball to left, but designated hitter Blake Dean launched a two-out, two run homer to knot the game at 7-7.


Second baseman DJ LeMahieu and third baseman Tyler Hanover hit back-to-back singles to continue the inning, but reliever Greg Houston retired pinch hitter Leon Landry on a grounder to first to end the frame.


Mississippi State (25-28, 9-19) responded quickly as shortstop Frank Rawdow led off the ninth with a single against LSU closer Matty Ott. Centerfielder Grant Hogue sacrificed Rawdow to second and Ott intentionally walked rightfielder Ryan Collins.


Catcher Scott DeLoach grounded to Hanover at third for what appeared to be an inning-ending double play, but Hanover misplayed the ball, allowing the Bulldogs to load the bases.


Freeman then lined a single to left, scoring Rawdow with the winning run.


Houston (2-2) was credited with the victory, while Ott dropped to 3-2 on the year with the loss.


Routt was magnificent on the mound for Mississippi State for eight innings before tiring in the ninth inning. LSU starter Louis Coleman (10-3), however, endured a rough outing as he surrendered seven runs on seven hits in six innings with one walk and six strikeouts.


Mississippi State struck for three runs in the bottom of the first inning as designated hitter Ryan Duffy drove in a run with a groundout and first baseman Connor Powers launched a two-run homer.


Duffy increased the Bulldogs’ lead to 4-0 in the fourth with a solo shot off of Coleman.


Nola reduced the deficit to 4-1 in the fifth with a solo homer, his second dinger of the season.


The Tigers narrowed the gap to 4-3 in the sixth on a two-run single by Gibbs.


Mississippi State, however, ostensibly seized control of the game in the bottom of the sixth, scoring three runs. DeLoach singled and scored on Duffy’s RBI double before Powers unloaded his second home of the game to give the Bulldogs a 7-3 lead.


The teams conclude the series at Noon CT Saturday in the final regular-season game of the year.

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