It wasn’t pretty, but pretty isn’t required to win championships.
The LSU baseball team defeated Mississippi State 11-5 Friday night, clinching the Tigers an SEC West crown and a first-round bye in next week’s SEC Tournament. With the win, LSU improved to 38-17 overall and 20-9 in SEC play. The Tigers are tied with Florida atop the overall SEC standings, each team with one regular-season game remaining.
Despite the high number of runs scored, LSU didn’t post that grand of an offensive performance. The Tigers recorded fewer hits (eight) than it did runs scored, thanks in large part to drawing 11 walks and two hit-by-pitches. Six of LSU’s runs were scored by batters who reached base via a walk or hit-by-pitch, three of which coming from the first three men LSU sent to the plate in the first inning.
Still, LSU took advantage of the men it put on base. 16 of the 24 runners who reached base with the possibility of advancing ultimately advanced, and the Tigers hit 5-for-15 (.333) with runners on base.
Senior left-hander Jared Poché made the final regular-season start of his LSU baseball career Friday, throwing five innings of eight-hit ball. Poché allowed four runs, all earned, with four strikeouts and two walks before being replaced by relief pitcher Caleb Gilbert in the sixth inning.
Gilbert only faced three batters and recorded one out before being subbed out for freshman Zack Hess, who shined on the mound for the second time in as many days. Hess allowed two hits in 3.2 innings pitched, striking out six with just one walk.
Junior catcher Michael Papierski led the Tigers offensively, going 2-for-4 with three runs scored, two RBI, a walk and his seventh home run of the season. Papierski’s seventh-inning home run was his third in LSU’s last two SEC series, as the catcher seems to be heating up at the right time.
Leadoff hitter and shortstop Kramer Robertson had an impressive night of his own, going 3-for-5 with one walk, one RBI and three runs scored. Robertson’s runs upped his season total to 65, expanding his SEC lead even further.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
The LSU baseball team will play its final regular-season game of 2017 Saturday. Freshman Eric Walker will patrol the mound for LSU as the Tigers attempt to sweep Mississippi State and contend for an SEC title, beginning at 3:30 p.m. CT on ESPNU and WatchESPN.
If LSU wins Saturday, it’ll clinch at least a tie of the SEC regular season crown. If LSU wins and Kentucky defeats Florida, LSU will earn the SEC title outright.