MSU Miscues Give LSU Victory

STARKVILLE, Miss. - Ninth-ranked LSU (37-17, 17-11) struck for three runs in the eighth inning Friday night to pull out a 7-5 win over Mississippi State (35-19, 12-15 SEC) in SEC baseball action at Dudy Noble Field. The division-leading Tigers took advantage of MSU miscues to plate five unearned runs in the game.

Nine-hole hitter Derek Hebert delivered a two-out, two-strike single to plate two runs, stole second and went to third on a errant pick-off throw before Bruce Sprowl followed with a run-scoring single up the middle.

LSU broke scoring ice with three unearned runs in the top of the fifth. MSU starter Alan Johnson walked the first two batters in the inning. Sprowl advanced them with a bunt, and after Blake Gill struck out, Ryan Patterson's ground ball to shortstop was thrown away at first, allowing two runs to score. Nick Stavinoha followed with a single to shallow left to score Patterson with the third unearned run in the frame.

"Mestepey did a nice job shutting us down in the first four innings, but I thought we swung the bats pretty well down the stretch and got some clutch hits," said Coach Ron Polk. "But you just can't allow fine teams like LSU to have four-out innings and expect to win. That's been a problem for us in the past few weeks."

State got back into the game with two runs in the fifth and took the lead with two more in the sixth. MSU loaded the bases in the fifth when Joseph Hunter and Joseph McCaskill opened the frame with singles and Brian LaNinfa drew a walk. Hunter came home on Michael Rutledge's double play grounder and Jeffrey Rea laced a single to left to score McCaskill. Brad Jones got the bulldogs going with a ground rule double that bounced over the left field fence. State got back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Hunter and McCaskill to take a 4-3 lead.

Johnson, who worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam to open the game, scattered seven hits, walked four and struck out five, leaving the game after giving up a lead-off single in the seventh. That runner later came home on a two-out passed ball, tying the game at 4-4.

State loaded the bases in their half of the seventh when Ed Easley doubled into the right field corner, Thomas Berkery drew a walk and Brad Jones singled to right. MSU could manage but one run, however, that coming on Brad Corley's sacrifice fly to right. It was the only run allowed by LSU relief man Jason Determann (4-0), who managed to avoid the big inning in the seventh and held State scoreless in the eighth after McCaskill and Jeffrey Butts opened the frame with singles. The Tiger lefty allowed five hits and walked one in 3-1/3 innings of mound duty.

Brett Cleveland, who replaced Johnson in the seventh, took the loss, giving up two runs on two hits and a walk. Mike Valentine worked the final two innings and was charged with one unearned run.

McCaskill had three hits and drove in a run while Brad Jones and Joseph Hunter had two hits apiece. Blake Gill had three hits and bruce Sprowl and Derek Hebert two each for LSU.

The Bulldogs had won 29 straight games when taking leads into the eighth inning.

The win kept LSU in first place in the SEC West and, coupled with Friday night wins by both Florida and Tennessee, third in the overall league standings, a game out of first place with two games to play.

The Bulldogs slipped to 10th place in the SEC, a half-game behind Auburn, Arkansas and Vanderbilt, all 13-15 in the SEC.

Mississippi State will honor its five senior players and lone senior manager in ceremonies prior to Saturday's 2 p.m. MSU-LSU game.

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