STARKVILLE – Mississippi State can win these games after all.
The Bulldogs overcame another bullpen meltdown Friday night, as Cody Freeman’s bases-loaded, one-out single in the ninth inning lifted them to an 8-7 win over No. 2 LSU in front of 3,403 at Dudy Noble Field.
The win came a day after MSU blew a 4-1 lead in a 5-4 loss.
At noon today, State will go for its second straight SEC series win and third of the season. With no SEC Tournament berth, this is it for the Bulldogs (25-28, 9-19 SEC).
“This last part of the season here when we start winning, it feels awesome,” said Freeman, a sophomore.
LSU (40-15, 19-10), which is trying to hold on to the overall No. 1 tourney seed – it’s tied with Ole Miss – had scored four times in the top of the ninth. State starter Nick Routt was chased two batters in, and the Tigers tied it at 7-7 on Blake Dean’s two-out, two-run home run to right field.
This sort of situation is nothing new to MSU, but not a single head was hung in the dugout.
“I knew we were going to win just the way we were playing. Especially if it was tied,” said junior Connor Powers, who blasted a pair of two-run homers. “I had a lot of faith in our lineup to get it done.”
Frank Rawdow opened the inning with a single off LSU closer Matty Ott (3-2), and the bags were loaded after an intentional walk and an error. Freeman then laced an 0-2 fastball down the left field line.
“He beat me (Thursday) night with it,” said Freeman, referring to his strikeout that ended the eighth inning with the tying run on third base. “I knew I was going to get it again (and) turned it around.”
Freeman had replaced Ryan Duffy in the DH spot an inning earlier, even though Duffy was 2-for-3 with a home run and three RBIs.
“It’s not that you’re taking Duffy out, it’s more like you’re giving Freeman an opportunity,” MSU coach John Cohen said.
Duffy and Powers led an assault on LSU ace Louis Coleman, who entering the game had an SEC-best 2.45 ERA and 10-2 record. Coleman, who throws sidearm, allowed a season-high seven runs and three home runs in six innings.
Powers belted a two-run homer that landed in the Left Field Lounge for a 3-0 lead in the first inning. That came after Duffy legged out an RBI fielder’s choice to keep the inning alive. LSU got within 4-3 with two in the sixth, but MSU responded immediately.
Duffy had a run-scoring double, and Powers followed with a monster blast over the center field wall to make it 7-3. It was his 19th home run of the season, giving him 38 for his career, ninth on the school’s all-time list.
Coleman “threw some really good pitches to me, he just missed twice,” Powers said.
Routt was trying to finish off his fifth complete game, but his back stiffened up in the ninth. He allowed six runs on six hits with five strikeouts and five walks. Greg Houston (2-2) got one out to earn the win. He relieved Jared Wesson, who yielded the Dean homer.
“We’ve got to have somebody who can come in the game – and Jared Wesson was so brilliant last Friday – but we’ve got to have the guy who can come in and get three, six outs,” Cohen said.
Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal