By Parrish Alford and Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
HOOVER, Ala. – Kentucky got some payback on Mississippi State on Thursday. Now LSU hopes for the same.
The Bulldogs will try to avoid elimination from the SEC Tournament at 3 p.m. when they play LSU for the second time in three days. They won on Wednesday, 3-2.
Thursday’s 5-1 loss to Kentucky came less than a week after MSU swept a three-game series from the Wildcats in Starkville.
LSU beat Ole Miss on Thursday, and the winner of today’s game advances to Saturday’s semifinals – to face Kentucky.
“The bottom line is our pitching is going to come through,” MSU outfielder Hunter Renfroe said. “We have some of the best pitchers in the NCAA. Our hitting’s going to come around. We’ve got to hit some balls hard and hit some gaps, and we’ve got to move runners.
“That’s the bottom line.”
MSU is expected to start sophomore right-hander Evan Mitchell (2-1, 3.52 ERA) on the mound. LSU will counter with sophomore right-hander Ryan Eades (5-2, 3.62).
“We need to get mentally rested and physically rested for a very, very good LSU team (today),” MSU coach John Cohen said.
Bianco praises pitchers
Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco credited starter Tanner Bailey and his first responders for giving the Rebels a chance to win against LSU.
Bailey gave up four hits in the first but also stranded two runners. One hit was a pop-up that found green space, another a well-placed bunt.
Bailey had two big strikeouts to strand a runner at third in the second. He gave up a run in the third but also stranded a runner at third base.
Chris Ellis entered after a leadoff double in the fourth and pitched scoreless innings in the fourth and fifth.
The Tigers squeezed home an inherited run against Aaron Greenwood in the sixth, but Greenwood escaped further damage with a strikeout for the third out and pitched a perfect seventh.
“I thought we competed early and pitched out of lot of jams. It seemed like they had runners in scoring position every inning, but when you’re facing (Kevin) Gausman, one of the best in the country if not the best, you can’t play like that. You’ve got to be really clean on your side, and try to keep the momentum,” Bianco said.
MSU had been finding a groove offensively during a five-game winning streak, but it had only four hits and struck out 11 times on Thursday. The bottom four spots in the order – which included a couple of pinch hitters and was heavily populated by freshmen and sophomores – went a combined 0 for 12 with six strikeouts.
“I think all of those guys are going to be better players. But I want them to be better players now, just like every coach in the country,” Cohen said. “I think, once they see it and get through the league one time, which all of them have, all of those guys are going to get better and better. The only way you can get better is experience that.”
Hoover hitting notes
A three-hit day for freshman Auston Bousfield against LSU made him 4 for 12 for 12 for the SEC tournament.
Bousfield was 3 for 3 on the final day of the regular season against Vanderbilt.
Alex Yarbrough was 5 for 11 for the SEC tournament, all five hits being singles.
Bianco shuffled the lineup following the 2-0 first-round loss to Kentucky, inserting Zach Kirksey in left field and freshman Sikes Orvis at DH.
Orvis was 1 for 8 with an RBI in his two starts but more than once got off swings with good contact but no results.
Kirksey went 1 for 4 with two runs and an RBI.