By Tiger Rag News Services
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Fifth-ranked LSU won its 17th Southeastern Conference championship Saturday night with an 11-7 victory over ninth-ranked Mississippi State at Dudy Noble Field.
LSU, which claimed the SEC Western Division championship on Friday night, will share the overall title with SEC Eastern Division champion Florida.
The Tigers, who won 11 of their final 12 SEC games, improved to 39-17 overall and 21-9 in conference play. Mississippi State dropped to 34-22 overall and 17-13 in league games.
LSU is the No. 2 seed for next week’s SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., and the Tigers will play Wednesday at approximately 1 p.m. against the winner of Tuesday’s matchup between seventh-seeded Texas A&M and 10th-seeded Missouri.
“It’s amazing when you think about it to win 11 of the last 12 SEC games,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who has directed the Tigers to four SEC regular-season titles in the past nine seasons. “We were this close to sweeping our last four SEC series. We did that back in 2008, and we were close this year. We’ll be happy to share the championship with Florida, and we’re happy to be the Western Division champions.
“I am just so proud of our guys. We know we had more in us. The season had peaks and valleys, but I knew we could play solid baseball. I think we played tremendous baseball in this series. Many different guys were heroes for us this weekend.”
Designated hitter Beau Jordan launched a two-run homer to highlight LSU’s 14-hit output, and every other player in the LSU lineup drove in one run. Second baseman Cole Freeman collected a team-best three hits, including an run-scoring double.
Sophomore right-hander Caleb Gilbert entered the game in the sixth inning with Mississippi State mounting a rally, and he silenced the Bulldog bats over 1.2 innings, allowing no hits with no walks and four strikeouts.
Gilbert was credited with the win, his third in four decisions this season. Hunter Newman pitched the final two innings for LSU, retiring all six Mississippi State batters that he faced.
MSU starter Cole Gordon (2-2)was charged with the loss, as he surrendered five runs on four hits in 3.1 innings with four walks and two strikeouts.
LSU grabbed a 4-0 lead in the top of the second inning against Gordon. Jordan launched a two-run homer – his third dinger of the season – and run-scoring singles were delivered by shortstop Kramer Robertson and by leftfielder Antoine Duplantis to highlight the inning.
The Bulldogs responded in the bottom of the second inning with two runs against LSU starter Eric Walker, as shortstop Ryan Gridley lined a two-out, two-run double.
Mississippi State tied the game in the third when second baseman Hunter Stovall unloaded a two-run homer, his first dinger of the season.
The Tigers regained the lead in the fourth when rightfielder Greg Deichmann chopped a two-out single into left field, scoring Robertson – who had led off the inning with a walk — from second base.
Catcher Michael Papierski lined an RBI single in the fifth, widening the margin to 6-4.
LSU added three runs in the sixth, as first baseman Nick Coomes and third baseman Josh Smith belted RBI singles, and centerfielder Zach Watson drew a bases-loaded walk.
Mississippi State narrowed the deficit to 9-7 against reliever Nick Bush in the sixth inning when first baseman Brent Rooker lined a run-scoring double and centerfielder Jake Mangum smacked a two-run single.
The Tigers added a unearned run in the seventh when second baseman Cole Freeman singled, stole second base, and scored on a throwing error by MSU shortstop Ryan Gridley after he fielded Coomes’ grounder.
LSU increased the lead to 11-7 in the eighth as Robertson tripled with one out and scored on Freeman’s double.