It wouldn’t be the postseason without an LSU baseball comeback.
Despite trailing for most of the first six innings of the game, LSU fought back to squeeze runs across two at a time and defeat Mississippi State 8-5 in the first round of the 2018 SEC Tournament. With the win, LSU (34-23, 16-15 SEC) advances to face Florida in the second round of the tournament on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. CT, while Mississippi State is eliminated from tournament contention.
LSU came into Tuesday listed as one of the last five teams in the NCAA Tournament field in D1 Baseball’s latest projections. With the win, LSU solidified its standing as a tournament team and ensured at least two more games in the SEC Tournament to further enhance the team’s resume.
Sophomore third baseman Jake Slaughter drove in the go-ahead run for LSU by taking advantage of his batting helmet’s security features in the seventh inning. With the bases loaded and the score tied 4-4, Slaughter took a 1-2 pitch off his earhole to drive in centerfielder Zach Watson and give the Tigers their first lead. One batter later, catcher Nick Coomes drove a deep fly to centerfield to give LSU an insurance run and a 6-4 lead.
Mississippi State added another run in the top of the eighth inning by stringing together back-to-back-to-back singles off relief pitcher Austin Bain. LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri replaced Bain with Todd Peterson, who set down the side to end the threat. Freshman shortstop Hal Hughes closed the inning with a dazzling play showing off his range.
Mid 8 | HAL HUGHES 🙌🙌🙌🙌
The freshman makes a tremendous play at shortstop to get the Tigers out of the jam.
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) May 23, 2018
Hughes capitalized on his goodwill with a single in the bottom of the eighth and came around to score on an RBI triple from Antoine Duplantis. Bain followed the Duplantis triple with an RBI single of his own, giving LSU a three-run lead.
Peterson returned for the ninth inning and stranded two more base runners to save the victory for LSU.
Sophomore left-hander Nick Bush earned the start for LSU on Tuesday and struggled to get outs early in innings. In all three of the frames he pitched, Bush allowed at least two Mississippi State batters to reach base. While Bush stranded runners in scoring position in the first and second inning, the Bulldogs poked 2 runs across in the third with a 2-out double into left field, giving Mississippi State its first lead of the game.
LSU turned to usual Friday night starter Zack Hess for 3 innings of bullpen relief on Tuesday. Pitching on short rest after his start last Thursday against Auburn, Hess allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, 4 walks and a hit batter across the 3 innings he threw, keeping the Tigers close. Between Hess and Bush, LSU pitchers stranded 9 Mississippi State base runners in the first six innings of the game.
The Tigers’ offense woke up in the fifth inning when LSU scratched across 2 runs off a sacrifice fly from Zach Watson and a two-out single from Antoine Duplantis. One inning later, LSU replicated the formula when a Beau Jordan sacrifice fly and a Brandt Broussard single eked 2 more runs across, tying the game at 4-4.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
LSU advances to the second round of the SEC Tournament versus No. 1 Florida, facing the Gators for the first time since the final game of the 2017 College World Series. Action is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. CT on Wednesday and will be televised on SEC Network. Online users can stream the game through WatchESPN.