By Randy Rosetta
Special to the Journal
BATON ROUGE, La. – Two high-level teams, two great pitching performances, down to the wire.
And ironically, it was two mistakes that led to the only runs when LSU and Mississippi State tangled at Alex Box Stadium on Saturday night.
The Tigers scratched a little more than the Bulldogs to claim a 2-1 victory and win the series with Game 3 on tap at 1 p.m. today.
LSU (23-8-1, 5-5-1 SEC) pushed home two runs in the sixth inning after State ace Ross Mitchell mishandled a potential double-play comebacker, and that was enough to overcome the only run the Bulldogs inflicted against Tigers’ freshman pitcher Jared Poche and three relievers.
State coach John Cohen missed most of the drama after he was ejected in the third inning for arguing on a play that wasn’t ruled catcher’s interference.
He knew enough about what happened, though, to recognize his team let one get away.
“They get a one-hopper back to the mound (in the sixth) that should’ve been a double play, and then they score two runs,” Cohen said. “That’s how baseball works sometimes. They got some hits to fall for them. We didn’t. I thought Poche pitched very well, and they did a good job of situational hitting. They hit it to the right spot at the right time. When we had our chances, we didn’t do it.”
LSU generated its two runs against Mitchell, catching a break when he botched a hot shot back to the mound.
Laird starts rally
Mark Laird got the Tigers purring when he zipped a base hit through the middle with one out to put some speed on the bases. Alex Bregman faked a bunt on one pitch and then scorched a two-hopper back to the hill where Mitchell gloved it, but then lurched to his right, with the ball squirting out of his glove to allow Bregman to reach.
Kade Scivicque, who had missed a chance to put LSU up in the first inning when he tapped into a 5-2 fielder’s choice, rammed the first pitch he got into left field with Laird and Bregman in motion. Laird scored easily, Bregman motored to third and Scivicque alertly lumbered to second base.
Catcher Chris Chinea stepped in also looking for some redemption after he was called for interference to help set up the Bulldogs’ run.
He took a ball and then blasted a fly ball to left that looked like it might leave the park. Jake Vickerson tracked it down at the warning track, but it was plenty deep enough to send Bregman scurrying home with the go-ahead run.
State scratched out a run in the fourth, the catcher’s interference playing a major role. Poche issued a one-out walk to Brett Pirtle, wild-pitched him to second base and then got close to wiggling off the hook when he won a long battle with Seth Heck with a strikeout.
But Derrick Armstrong’s slow roller to third base – it would’ve been the third out – was wiped out because Chinea was too close to the hitter and the bat hit his glove.
Demarcus Henderson stepped in, took a strike and then rifled State’s second hit over the infield to score the run and put State ahead 1-0.
Mitchell allowed only five hits in six-plus innings and Poche was even better, surrendering only three.