“It felt good,” Laster said. “I just wanted to try to do something to get a spark back going for us.”
Laster was the spark Mississippi State (17-6) needed, at least on the mound, to change their recent struggles into a success. The senior southpaw put in a career-best nine full innings, scattering most of the eight base hits and allowing the two runs. He ended the evening with a double-play to exit the field 3-0.
“Lucas really did a workman-like night for us, I thought he was tremendous,” Coach John Cohen said. “Seven punchouts, no walks. He had the two HBPs but both were 0-2 count and he was trying to go inside and that’s something we don’t mind.”
Laster didn’t entirely over-power EIU, which came and left winless (0-14). He gave up a leadoff double and RBI-single to Isaac Sampen in the second inning, which had the Bulldogs trailing 1-0. After being handed a 4-1 lead Laster limited other damage. A couple of singles in the fifth produced the other run.
Otherwise, though, Laster was in enough control for a complete-game win. “I really established both sides of the plate with the fastball. I was able to throw the changeup I certain counts, it really helped me get some weak contact and a few swing-and-misses.”
The Bulldog offense did some early swinging as well and even had a couple of early hits and reach-on-error. Nothing scored until the third inning though, after a leadoff out and EIU pitching change. Ben Hughes had gone 2.1 with no runs on two hits and four strikeouts. Christian Slazinik was not nearly so effective or lucky.
A walk of RF Cody Brown and plunking of DH Brent Rooker was the kick-start State needed. CF Jacob Robson worked a walk to load all bases, then 1B Wes Rea sent them all home. His double to left-centerfield was good for a fast three runs.
Reliever Matt Doherty was greeted by LF Reid Humphreys with a RBI-double for the 4-1 lead. It became 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth as with Dogs on corners Doherty balked, scoring Robson from third base.
Slazinik (0-3) took the loss on 0.0 official innings as he was charged with the first four runs. Doherty went 2.2 innings with a run on three hits, walk, and strikeout. Two more pitchers worked the last three scoreless innings.
“I felt early on we didn’t execute offensively but later we took better swings,” said Cohen. State mustered seven base hits with Robson going 2-of-3 and two runs. Rea drove in the three RBI on one of his two hits and scored as well. Humphreys was 2-of-4 with the other RBI.
But of course the evening belonged to the pitcher. Laster threw 119 pitches and there was some thought of making a late move. “We had Myles (Gentry) going, we were going to bring him in,” Cohen said. “But when you have a guy who’s not walking anybody you ask him how he feels, and they say I want to finish this thing out it means a lot. Especially if he’s a senior.”
After 23 home games the Bulldogs will need all the seniority and everything else they can muster as they take their act on the road. Mississippi State visits Kentucky for their first SEC road series, and the Dogs will leave Thursday.