LAFAYETTE, La. – Mississippi State fought valiantly before seeing its baseball season end Monday night in the championship game of the Lafayette Regional.
MSU spotted Louisiana-Lafayette the game’s first four runs before watching a rally fall short, 5-3 before a standing-room only crowd at Tigue Moore Field. ULL, the nation’s top-ranked team and No. 6 national seed, won four straight games to win a regional championship for the first time since 2000. ULL also beat MSU 14-8 Sunday night.
Louisiana-Lafayette (57-8) will host this weekend in its third-ever super regional appearance. For No. 17 MSU, the Bulldogs played in a regional championship game for the third time in four seasons.MSU finishes the season 39-24.
ULL built the early 4-0 lead with three runs in the third inning and another score in the fourth inning. Again, walks and wild pitches plagued the Bulldogs.
“We were down 4-0 early and the kids showed a lot of composure in fighting back,” MSU head coach John Cohen said. “We had a tough time keeping the game in front of us in the third inning. Lafayette is a very good club. You have to beat them the way we did in the second half of that game.
“We walked seven during the course of the game. That was the whole ballgame. We have to play clean games to win championships. That is how we are built. Baseball is a game of inches and it certainly was there in the third inning.”
MSU starter Lucas Laster (0-1) was lifted during the third inning. After working around two hits in the second inning, Laster issued a one-out walk and allowed a two-out RBI-single in the third inning. Two more walks loaded the bases before the Bulldogs went to Jacob Lindgren.
Lindgren wild pitched a pair of runs home in the third inning as the Ragin’ Cajuns’ lead moved to 3-0. ULL only reached Lindgren for one more score in the fourth inning.
The Bulldogs began their rally in the fourth inning. C.T. Bradford and Brett Pirtle started the inning with back-to-back singles. After a line out, a sacrifice fly by Wes Rea scored the Maroon and White’s first run.
In the seventh inning, MSU finally chased ULL starter Ryan Wilson. Wilson (6-0) pitched 6.2 innings, allowing four hits and three runs (all earned), with two strikeouts and four walks. Matt Plitt finished the contest to earn his fifth save.
After back-to-back outs to start the seventh inning, Matthew Britton reached as a hit batsman. Seth Heck then drew a walk. In relief, Plitt was touched for back-to-back RBI-singles by Bradford and Pirtle. However, the Bulldogs stranded two in that at-bat and also an inning later.
Jonathan Holder followed Lindgren to the mound in the eighth inning. The Ragin’ Cajuns put together a hit batsman, a wild pitch and a base hit to plate an insurance score in the ninth inning.
“We battled back,” MSU senior outfielder C.T. Bradford said. “I wouldn’t want to be out there with any other group of guys. It’s been that way through 60 games for us. We have had our ups and downs. We just kept battling. That is why I liked this team so much.”
MSU finished with six hits, including a three-hit night for Pirtle. Pirtle finished the tournament with 11 base hits. Bradford also had multiple hits.
“Brett will go down as one of the best second basemen to ever play at Mississippi State,” Cohen said. “I think he is the best defensive second baseman in the country. I hate this for our seniors. The goal for this group was to win four postseason tournaments in four years and we came within inches of doing that.”
ULL finished with seven hits. Jace Conrad and Caleb Adams each had multiple hits for the Ragin’ Cajuns.