MSU Loses Game, Gains SEC Tournament Berth

We’ll eschew normal operating procedure, because Mississippi State’s 6-3 loss to LSU today – and losing the series – isn’t as important as the postseason implications. Sure, MSU could have won the SEC Western Division had Ole Miss also beaten Arkansas – the Hogs won – but the Bulldogs are in the SEC Tournament either way. They’ll be the No. 6 seed and play No. 3 seed Florida in the second game on Wednesday.

It’s MSU’s first trip to Hoover since 2007, when it also reached the College World Series. Coach John Cohen, in his third year at the helm, is excited about the bid but didn’t want to back in. MSU officially qualified when Tennessee rallied in the ninth to beat Auburn earlier in the day; turns out the Arkansas win would’ve put State in anyway. An Ole Miss win plus an Auburn win would have left State out.

“I’m more disappointed for our kids than for anybody else, because outside of anything else that could happen as a result of other games, I wanted our kids to win this game,” Cohen said. “They wanted to win this game. They wanted to go out and claim something for themselves and not have to rely or worry about other people.”

MSU could have gotten a No. 2 seed if it had won and if Ole Miss had beaten Arkansas. It’s been 27 years since State won the West, although it did win the SEC overall title in 1989, when there were no divisions.

Here is how the schedule looks for Wednesday’s first round (seedings in parentheses):

• Game 1, 9:30 a.m.: (7) Alabama vs. (2) Arkansas

• Game 2, TBD: (6) MSU vs. (3) Florida

• Game 3, 4:30 p.m.: (8) Auburn vs. (1) South Carolina

• Game 4, TBD: (5) Georgia vs. (4) Vanderbilt

If you want the entire bracket, well, click on it over to the left there.

None of the current Bulldogs have played in any kind of postseason for MSU. So they’ve all looking forward to a new experience but won’t be satisfied with just showing up.

“It doesn’t matter really what seed you are, you’ve still got to be the best team to get to where you want to go, and that’s how we’re going to look at it,” junior pitcher Caleb Reed said. “We’re going to keep competing like we have all season, and hopefully things will roll for us, and we’ll get to where we want to be.”

• As for the game itself, LSU took a 3-0 lead in the third, chasing starter Chris Stratton (5-7) after the first two batters reached that inning. MSU clawed back within 3-2, and it was 4-3 when Reed gave up a two-run homer to Raph Rhymes in the eighth.

LSU starter Ryan Eades (4-1), a freshman, tossed 6 strong innings. He gave up three runs on seven hits, struck out two and walked one.

Nick Vickerson walloped a two-run homer in the fourth for MSU, and Cody Freeman had two hits.

Jarrod Parks was 1 of 3 and maintained his lead in the SEC batting title race. He’s hitting .385; LSU’s Mikie Mahtook is at .383.

Parks was ejected in the seventh inning after being called out on a bang-bang play at first base. The play ended the inning with the tying run at third, and Parks slung his helmet to draw the thumb.

“I specifically asked the umpire if he said any obscenities. He said, ‘No.’ The fact that he slammed his helmet makes him ejectable,” said Cohen. “Jarrod Parks is competing his tail off, and there’s so much at stake, you can’t blame him for having a one-second eruption like that.”

Reliever Caleb Reed tossed 7 innings of relief, the longest relief outing for an MSU pitcher this year and the longest outing of Reed’s career. He allowed four runs (three earned) on nine hits, striking out six and walking four.