Thanks to a gritted-out effort from junior ace Alex Lange, the LSU baseball team officially sits atop the SEC standings.
LSU (37-17, 19-9 SEC) defeated Mississippi State 3-1 in a nail-biter Thursday night. Because of Kentucky’s win over Florida Thursday, LSU, Florida and Kentucky are locked in a three-way tie atop the SEC standings. Each team has two regular season games remaining with top seeding in next week’s SEC Tournament on the line.
Lange wasn’t able to throw a complete game Thursday, ending his streak at two straight completed affairs, but continued his hot streak. The junior allowed a leadoff home run to Mississippi State’s Ryan Gridley in the first inning, but followed that with seven shutout frames. Though those innings didn’t come without their challenges.
— Todd Politz (@tpolitz) May 19, 2017
Mississippi State loaded the bases versus Lange in both the sixth and seventh innings. Lange had already worked north of 120 pitches by the time he faced his final batter in the seventh, but he struck that batter out looking on three pitches to strand the bases loaded. Versus Lange, Mississippi State went 0-for-11 with runners on base and 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
In all, Lange tossed seven innings, allowing one run with 11 strikeouts and five walks. In the third and fourth innings, Lange struck out batters for all six of his outs, helping expand his season total to 111 strikeouts.
Zack Hess relieved Lange in the eighth inning, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Senior Hunter Newman came in for the ninth to close out the game and walked one batter but earned his ninth save of the season.
LSU’s offense broke the game open for the Tigers in the fourth inning. Greg Deichmann, Nick Coomes and Beau Jordan opened up the inning with two walks and a single, loading the bases, before Josh Smith drove a ball into centerfield for a sacrifice fly, tying the game at 1-1. Two batters later, freshman centerfielder Zach Watson singled underneath the glove of Mississippi State’s diving shortstop, driving in Coomes and giving LSU its 2-1 lead.
The Tigers added an insurance run in the top of the eighth inning when Watson drove Smith in with a sacrifice fly of his own. Watson led LSU with two RBI, while Deichmann paced the team with four times on base, all of which walks.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
The Tigers and Bulldogs return to action Friday night for game two of this weekend’s three-game series. Friday’s game will begin at 6:30 and will be available to stream online through WatchESPN. Senior Jared Poché will make the last regular season start of his storied LSU baseball career on the mound for the Tigers.