STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Senior third baseman Conner Hale’s two-run double in the top of the 14th inning Thursday night lifted top-ranked LSU to a 5-3 win against Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field.
The victory was the 400th career LSU victory for coach Paul Mainieri, who is now 400-156-3 in nine seasons at the helm of the program. Mainieri is the second-winningest coach at LSU, trailing only Skip Bertman, who had 870 wins in 18 seasons (1984-2001). Bertman also earned his 400th career LSU win during his ninth season in Baton Rouge.
LSU improved to 39-7, 15-6 in the SEC. The Tigers are in a first-place tie with Vanderbilt in the overall league standings. Mississippi State dropped to 23-23 and 7-15.
LSU is 4-3 this season in extra-inning games, 3-3 in extra-inning SEC contests.
The teams continue the series with Game 2 at 8 p.m. ET Friday. The game will be televised by ESPNU.
“It was an unbelievable game and a very important win for us as we play what is essentially a pennant race down the stretch,” Mainieri said. “We made some tremendendous plays to stay in the game, and I thought our pitching was outstanding.”
The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead in the first as first baseman Wes Rea delivered an RBI single and leftfielder Reid Humphreys added a run-scoring groundout.
LSU responded with two runs in the top of the fourth as third baseman Conner Hale reached on an error and later scored on a wild pitch, and designated hitter Danny Zardon produced an RBI single.
The Tigers added a run in the fifth as shortstop Alex Bregman doubled, moved to third on Hale’s infield single and scored when catcher Kade Scivicque grounded into a double play.
The Bulldogs tied the game at 3-3 in the bottom of the ninth against LSU starter Jared Poche’ when Humphreys ripped an RBI double to score third baseman Luke Reynolds, who had singled and moved to second on a single by Rea. It appeared Mississippi State would win the game on Humphreys’ double, but pinch runner Matt Spruill, who was following Reynolds, tripped as he rounded third and was tagged out by the Tigers.
Later in the ninth, Bregman kept a potential game-winning single from going into left field to keep the Tigers alive.
Fraley also extended the game in the 11th when he threw out centerfielder Jacob Robson at the plate when Robson was attempting to score the winning run from second on shortstop Ryan Gridley’s two-out single.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen three game-saving plays in one night,” Mainieri said. “It was amazing, and I’m very proud of our guys for maintaining the focus necessary to win a very hard-fought game.”
LSU finally broke out on top in the 14th as MSU reliever Trevor Fitts walked leftfielder Jake Fraley to start the frame, and Fraley advanced to second on rightfielder Mark Laird’s sacrifice bunt. Fitts intentionally walked Bregman before the runners advanced to second and third on a wild pitch.
Hale then blasted a double to the right-centefield game to score Fraley and Bregman with the go-ahead runs.
LSU closer Jesse Stallings earned his 12th save of the season, retiring the side in order in the bottom of the 14th.
Freshman right-hander Jake Godfrey (7-0), who recorded two outs to end the Mississippi State 13th, was credited with the victory. Godfrey allowed one hit, but also recorded a strikeout to close out the inning.
Poche’ pitched a career-long nine innings, limiting the Bulldogs to three runs -- two earned -- on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Fitts (2-4) was charged with the loss, as he allowed two runs on six hits in 4.1 innings with three walks and two strikeouts.