True story: I had no idea we were playing last night. There I was, worried that the quick turnaround from this weekend's series to the SEC Tournament which starts on Wednesday would be a problem for us, and lo and behold the weekend series started one day earlier to compensate for it.
The SEC officials are sometimes so smart.
As I was going to say in preview this morning, this is yet another big series for the Tigers. We lead the SEC by 1/2 game over Bama and by 1 game over Florida and Ole Miss, holding tie-breakers against all three (but the tie-breaker over Bama is useless because it's very unlikely to end in a tie).
Anyway, the Tigers needed a dramatic comeback to beat Mississippi State. LSU scored the first run of the game in the top of the 1st on a Mikie Mahtook home run, but surrendered it in the bottom of the 2nd when Mississippi State strung together a walk and two singles to bring a run home.
The Tigers missed an opportunity in the 3rd as we loaded the bases with two outs and DJ Lamahieu up, but Lamahieu lined out to end the threat. MSU answered in its half of the 3rd as DH Ryan Duffy led off with a double and then Ranaudo walked the next batter. Coaches then made the mistake of asking a .274 hitter to sacrifice bunt, giving away an out. The next two batters got singles to drive home two runs. The 9th place hitter hit a sacrifice fly to bring home a 3rd and a runner was thrown out trying to take second to end the inning.
With Anthony Ranaudo not exactly cruising, things didn't look very good. The Tiger hitters didn't advance a runner to second base for the next three innings. MSU starting lefthander Tyler Whitney kept us off balance the whole night, but only lasted 6+ innings, probably thanks in large part to the threat we mounted in the 3rd that built up his pitch count. Meanwhile, Anthony Ranaudo definitely settled down. Over the next three innings, he allowed one runner on base. These innings must have just flown by.
Tyler Whitney ran out of gas in the 7th and walked Jared Mitchell before giving up a single to Micah Gibbs. Whitney was pulled, but LSU bats came alive as Mississippi State made the mistake of bringing in right handed pitchers Lee Swindle and Chad Crosswhite. No amount of cool names will help a right handed pitcher against LSU.
Austin Nola cleared the bases with a 2 RBI double to reduce the LSU deficit to 4-3. Schimpf grounded out for the 1st out and Mahtook singled home Nola to tie the game. The Bulldogs pulled Lee Swindle at this point in favor of Crosswhite and Crosswhite got out of the inning without further damage.
Anthony Ranaudo followed up our big inning in the top of the 7th by getting another 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 7th.
In the top of the 8th, LSU pushed home another run to take the lead as Jared Mitchell hit a 1-out double, then advanced on a groundout before scoring on a wild pitch.
The Tigers brought in Matty Ott after Ranaudo recorded the first out in the 8th and Mississippi State tried to mount a rally. Ott retired the first batter on a groundout to first but the next two singled to put runners on first and third, but Ott would get out of the inning with a strikeout.
The Tigers would go out quietly in the 9th. MSU got a 2-out single in the 9th to put a runner on for one of their best power hitters, but Ott got the out to end the game.
Let's congratulate Austin Nola on a 2-hit night. We criticize the decision to play him so much due to his weak hitting, but he was huge last night, including hitting a 2-run double and later scoring in LSU's 3-run 7th inning that tied the score.
We also have to point out that Anthony Ranaudo pitched 128 pitches last night, and struck out the last two batters he faced. He pitches a ton of pitches and just does not seem to wear down.
Meanwhile, Bama lost to Auburn in extra innings, while Ole Miss and Florida both won. Our magic number is now 1 and we have Louis Coleman going tonight.
Once again, we will be facing a left-handed starting pitcher as MSU will be throwing their ace at us, LHP Nick Routt, who sports an ERA of 3.89 in 12 starts. He is also a horse, as he has pitched 4 complete games this year. The LSU staff as a whole has pitched 2 complete games I think. Strangely, despite 4 complete games in 12 starts, he only averages about 6.5 innings pitched per appearance. Statistically, he's a good pitcher. He gets about 1 strikeout per inning while allowing one walk about every 3 1/2 innings. Opponents hit about .270 against him. He does not give up a lot of home runs.
MSU will probably give us 3 straight lefthanded starting pitchers. Their problems will come when they get into the bullpen, as they do not have a lefty among their most frequent relief pitchers.
I'll have to pay closer attention tonight. If we win tonight, we win the SEC by tie-breakers over Ole Miss and Florida regardless of what those teams do and regardless of what happens on Saturday.