LAFAYETTE, La. – Mississippi State’s best offensive performance in the Lafayette Regional did not lead to a victory against the nation’s top-ranked team Sunday night.
MSU collected 14 hits and scored the game’s final five runs but could not overcome an offensive explosion by No. 1 Louisiana-Lafayette as it fell 14-8 in the first game of the championship round of the regional.
MSU (39-23) will again face the host squad Louisiana-Lafayette (56-8) at 6 p.m. Monday in a winner-take-all championship game. MSU will be playing for its third regional title in four seasons.
“You can’t give Lafayette enough credit,” MSU head coach John Cohen said.”They did a great job. They swung the bats well. They had a good game plan. We played really well the last five innings. You have to do things to disrupt the timing (of Louisiana-Lafayette). I thought we did that at the end and we need to carry that over to (Monday night).”
Louisiana-Lafayette broke away from a 3-3 tie by scoring three times in the third inning and six times in the fourth inning. MSU starting pitcher Ross Mitchell (8-5) was lifted, after allowing seven hits and six run (all earned) in three innings of work.
The Bulldogs will now face a winner-take-all game for the second straight season in a regional championship tournament. MSU will be playing for the right to face the winner of the Oxford Regional in a super regional this weekend.
“We have been battle-tested,” MSU senior outfielder C.T. Bradford said. “We have had some tough losses, but we have regrouped the next night every time. There is no doubt we will come out ready to compete. We have a mature group of guys. They know what needs to be fixed. We will play like it is our last game. I promise you we will get after them.”
Down 3-0, the Bulldogs battled back to tie with three runs in the third inning.
Seth Heck, C.T. Bradford and Brett Pirtle began the inning with consecutive hits. Pirtle’s hit scored Heck. Gavin Collins followed with a sacrifice fly. Wes Rea followed with an RBI-single to close the scoring in that inning.
The Ragin’ Cajuns quickly responded with three runs in the third inning and six runs in the fourth inning. In the fourth inning, an RBI-single by Blake Trahan started the scoring. Tyler Girouard followed with an RBI-double down the left field line. Seth Harrison later added a critical two-run single. Chase Compton and Dylan Butler followed with run-producing hits to cap a six-hit inning.
The Bulldogs kept plugging away, scoring twice in the both the seventh and eighth innings and capping the scoring on Wes Rea’s fifth home run of the season in the ninth inning.
In the seventh inning, Pirtle had an RBI-double and Rea brought home a run on a ground out. In the eighth inning, Bradford and Pirtle had run-producing hits. A critical caught stealing by ULL catcher Michael Strentz stalled the big inning.
“Our goal now is to come out and replicate what we did in the last five innings of this game,” Cohen said. “Our kids will come out and compete. This was a great atmosphere tonight. We know (Monday night) will be the same thing. We have to come out and be ready to compete. I think we will give a great effort.”
MSU finished with 14 hits. Pirtle had four hits and three RBIs, while Bradford had three hits. Rea finished with two hits and three RBIs.
ULL finished with 18 hits. Jace Conrad, Blake Trahan and Butler each had three hits. Ryan Leonards, Girouard, Compton and Harrison each had two hits. Conrad and Harrison each had three RBIs.
ULL starting pitcher Cody Boutte (9-0) pitched 6.1 innings, allowing 10 hits and five runs (all earned), with four strikeouts and two walks. Martin Anderson and Ben Carter followed in relief. For MSU, Myles Gentry, Brandon Woodruff and Vance Tatum pitched in relief.