College baseball: LSU beats Mississippi State to capture its 19th SEC West championship
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Senior left-hander Jared Poche' earned his ninth win of the season Friday night, and four LSU players collected at least two RBI to lead the Tigers to an 11-5 win over No.9 Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field.
The victory clinched the SEC Western Division title for LSU, which has won 19 division crowns and six in the past 10 seasons.
LSU is 38-17 overall and 20-9 in SEC play, while Mississippi State is 34-21 overall and 17-12 in conference games.
The teams conclude the series at 3:30 p.m. CT Saturday in the final game of the regular season. The game will be carried by affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network, and the broadcast may be heard at www.LSUsports.net/live.
Saturday's contest will be televised by ESPNU, and it may also be viewed online at WatchESPN.com and the Watch ESPN app.
Don't miss any of the highlights of the Tigers' 11-5 win on Friday night in Starkville! LSU and MSU return to action at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. pic.twitter.com/RAh4XuglJJ— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) May 20, 2017
If LSU wins Saturday's game over Mississippi State, the Tigers would clinch at least a tie for the SEC overall championship. If LSU wins and Florida loses to Kentucky on Saturday, the Tigers would be the outright SEC champions.
LSU has won 10 of its last 11 SEC games over a four-weekend stretch.
Shortstop Kramer Robertson collected three hits, three runs and one RBI; catcher Michael Papierski was 2-for-3 with a homer, two RBI and three runs; first baseman Nick Coomes had a double and three RBI; and rightfielder Greg Deichmann and leftfielder Antoine Duplantis each drove in two runs.
“I'm sure there aren't too many people who predicted a month ago that we would be the SEC Western Division champions,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We're finishing strong. I told everyone that with 11 games left in the season we were going to finish strong. I think we are. We have one championship in our pocket and tomorrow we get to go for another one. The players want it bad, and they will be fired up tomorrow.
“We clinched the SEC West, and I'm really proud of that. We've now won six SEC West championships, and we've won all of them on the road. As well as we play at Alex Box Stadium, we are such road warriors.”
LSU has won 21 of its past 27 SEC road series, including three of five this season.
Poche' worked five innings to earn the Saturday's win, the 36th victory of his career. He limited Mississippi State to four runs on eight hits with two walks and four strikeouts.
Freshman right-hander Zack Hess blanked the Bulldogs over the final 3.2 innings to earn the first save of his LSU career. Hess allowed just two hits and recorded six strikeouts.
“Jared Poche' went out there and competed like crazy,” Mainieri said. “I thought Zack Hess did a phenomenal job finishing out the ball game for us. We didn't hit a lot but we earned a lot of walks. We knew going in that their pitcher had some streaks of wildness so I told our guys to earn walks.”
Mississippi State starter Denver McQuary (2-3) was charged with the loss, as he surrendered six runs on four hits in 5.2 innings with five walks and four strikeouts.
LSU collected eight hits on the night, but also drew 11 walks and two hit-by-pitches.
LSU struck for three runs in the first inning against McQuary, as Deichmann provided an RBI with a groundout and Coomes lined a two-run double.
The Bulldogs responded with a run in the bottom of the first against Poche', as centerfielder Jake Mangum delivered an RBI single.
LSU extended its lead to 4-1 in the fifth when Papierski drew a lead-off walk, moved to second on McQuary's throwing error, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on shorstop Robertson's single.
The Bulldogs erupted for three runs on three hits in the fifth inning, tying the contest at 4-4. First baseman Brent Rooker lined a run-scoring single and second baseman Hunter Stovall delivered a two-out, two-RBI single with the bases loaded to highlight the rally.
LSU regained the lead in the top of the sixth when third baseman Josh Smith doubled, moved to third on designated hitter Beau Jordan's sacrifice bunt and scored on Papierski's single. The Tigers added three more runs in the inning when Duplantis, Deichmann and Coomes drew three straight bases-loaded walks, giving LSU an 8-4 advantage.
The Bulldogs scored an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, but the Tigers responed with three runs in the top of the seventh. Papierski launched a solo homer, his seventh dinger of the season, and Duplantis lifted a sacrifice fly to highlight the inning.