After exploding for eight runs in the third inning, No. 27 LSU never looked back, as a seven-inning masterpiece by Austin Ross and three homers from the LSU offense powered the Tigers to a 17-3 victory over Mississippi State Friday night in Alex Box Stadium, clinching a berth for LSU in the SEC Tournament.
The Tigers (36-19, 14-15) earned a spot in the SEC Tournament with Friday’s win and Kentucky’s 20-0 loss at Georgia. Mississippi State fell to 22-33 overall and 5-24 in the SEC.
The series finale between LSU and Mississippi State will be Saturday at 3 p.m. in Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers will start sophomore lefty Chris Matulis (5-2) on the mound, while the Bulldogs will counter with freshman right-hander Chris Stratton (4-3).
Ross (4-4) was outstanding for LSU, as the junior right-hander hurled seven marvelous innings, allowing three runs on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts.
The LSU offense was propelled by rightfielder Mikie Mahtook’s three-hit, four RBI performance, as well as a four RBI outing from shortstop Austin Nola. Mahtook, Leon Landry and second baseman Tyler Hanover each homered for the Tigers Friday night.
“I thought we played a complete ball game tonight,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Our players showed a great deal of intensity at the plate, and Austin Ross gave us another very strong outing. The SEC is so tough every weekend, and qualifying for the conference tournament is a significant accomplishment. We’re certainly not satisfied, though, with just making the tournament. We want to continue to play well tomorrow and carry some momentum into the postseason.”
In the third, the Tigers went up 2-0 when Mississippi State starter Devin Jones hit Gibbs with the bases loaded and then issued a bases-loaded walk to Dean. The next batter, Austin Nola, ripped a two-run single through the right side to give LSU a 4-0 lead. Nola’s two RBI give him four so far this series.
After surrendering an infield single to Mahtook that loaded the bases again, Jones walked Gaudet to give the Tigers a 5-0 advantage. The Bulldogs brought in left-hander Luke Bole to relieve Jones, and the first batter he faced, Alex Edward, laced a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded to make the score 7-0. Hanover followed with an RBI single up the middle to cap the eight-run inning and put LSU up 8-0.
All eight of the Tigers’ runs in the third came with two outs in the inning.
The Bulldogs responded in the top of the fourth when third baseman Nick Vickerson launched a solo homer off Austin Ross, who hadn’t allowed a base runner in the first three innings, to make the score 8-1. The homer was Vickerson’s eighth of the season and his third in the last three games.
State made the score 8-2 later in the fourth when left fielder Ryan Duffy crushed a solo homer over the bleachers in right field. Duffy’s homer was his 10th of the season.
The Tigers added to their lead in the fourth with three runs in the inning with RBI by Dean, Nola and Mahtook to increase LSU’s advantage to 11-2.
In the fifth, the Tigers made the score 13-2 when Hanover and Landry launched solo homers. Hanover’s dinger was his second of the season while Landry’s homer was his sixth. After Nola ripped another RBI single to make the score 14-2, Mahtook blasted a three-run homer, his 13th of the season, increasing LSU’s lead to 17-2.
In the top of the sixth, Conner Powers launched a solo homer to make the score 17-3. The homer was Powers’ 16th of the season.
Freshman left-hander Chris Cotton closed out the final two innings for the Tigers, allowing no runs on two hits with a strikeout.