It was a night of bouncing back for LSU.
Freshman Ma’Khail Hilliard shook off the roughest outing for his brief career with seven strong innings of one-run ball and LSU held off Ole Miss 5-2 at Swayze Field on Friday night to force a rubber match in the critical Southeastern Conference season. Hilliard allowed only four hits (none after the second inning) and struck out six.
Hilliard was nails for LSU one night after an embarrassing bullpen implosion. He weathered some taxing early innings that drove up his pitch count, but the rookie was simply dominant once the Tiger bats finally awoke to take a slim lead.
Ole Miss right-hander Brady Feigl was dominant for five innings before Antoine Duplantis led off the sixth inning with a single. Zach Watson worked a key walk by battling through a 10-pitch at-bat and Hunter Feduccia put LSU ahead 2-1 with a clutch two-out, two-run double to left-center field on a 1-2 offering.
LSU tacked on an important insurance run one inning later. Jake Slaughter, who replaced Josh Smith at third base earlier in the game, drew a two-out walk. Slaughter stole second base and scored on an RBI triple by Duplantis, who has already racked up five hits in the series.
Hilliard worked a clean seventh inning and LSU tacked on more in the eighth. Feduccia drove in his third run of the night with a single through the left side. Hal Hughes followed by chopping an RBI single to left.
Having witnessed a bullpen meltdown on Thursday, LSU coach Paul Mainieri turned the game over to Nick Bush in the eighth inning. Bush yielded a solo home run to Nick Foster, but worked a clean inning aside from that thanks to a brilliant diving grab from Zach Watson in center field.
Bush returned in the ninth inning and closed out the much-needed victory. LSU will go for a series victory on Saturday afternoon. First pitch is set for 3 p.m.