Ninth-Inning Rally Lifts Bulldogs Past LSU, 6-5, For Big Win
The Bulldogs battled back from down 5-0 to even the final SEC series of the regular season at a game apiece. The Maroon and White made amends for a 17-1 beatdown in Thursday's series opener with a stirring comeback that had cowbells ringing in the Left Field Lounge well into the night.
With one full day left in the league's regular season schedule, so much is decided, while so much more is not. In the Eastern Division, South Carolina, Florida and Vanderbilt are tied for first place. In the Western Division, Alabama, Auburn and MSU are tied for first place. In the race for the eight spots in next week's SEC Tournament, South Carolina, Florida, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Alabama and Auburn have already punched tickets.
The Bulldogs (34-20 overall, 14-15 SEC) join that group with a victory in tomorrow's 2 p.m. series finale. Also with a win, the Bulldogs will share the Western Division title - the school's first division title in baseball since 1984. Still with a loss, the Bulldogs could slip in the tournament field with the proper results in a couple of other league venues. LSU ( 35-20, 12-17) was eliminated from SEC Tournament consideration with Friday's defeat.
While the Bulldogs do control their destiny, Friday night's victory might just mean that it was meant to be. Off one of the nation's premier closers, LSU flame-thrower Matty Ott (1-3), the Bulldogs struck twice in the ninth inning to send a boisterous Maroon Friday crowd home happy.
"Our players just kept trying to get things going for us," MSU head coach John Cohen said. "We talked about everything leading up to this game: all of the early morning weight sessions, meetings and practices. Our players were going to leave it all on the field tonight, win, lose or draw."
In the ninth inning, Jonathan Ogden got things started with a hard-hit one-out single to left field. With Sam Frost pinch running for Ogden, C.T. Bradford drew a walk. Cody Freeman smacked a game-tying single to center field. That hit was misplayed by the center fielder, allowing both Bradford and Freeman an extra base.
Jarrod Parks drew an intentional walk to load the bases. Shepherd hit a chopper to LSU second baseman JaCoby Jones, who was unable to play the ball cleanly, allowing Shepherd to leg out the game-winning hit without a throw.
"This team has a never give up attitude," Shepherd said. "We always believed in the dugout that we would have a chance to win. It was Senior Night so there was a lot of emotion. This is such a huge win. It will go a long way towards helping us reach some of our goals."
Eight Bulldog seniors were honored in pregame ceremonies. However, no one in the Maroon and White was bigger than junior relief pitcher Devin Jones.
Jones threw 5.1 innings of shutout relief. A Friday night starter when the season began, Jones battled hard in what turned out to be the biggest Friday appearance of his Maroon and White career. While facing 21 batters, Jones allowed five hits and kept the Tigers at bay. Taylor Stark (3-0) recorded the final out and emerged the winner.
MSU starter Nick Routt was lifted during a four-run third inning. By the time that at-bat ended, the Tigers had seized apparent control at 5-0. Instead, the Bulldogs just started grinding. Single runs in third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings set up a dramatic escape.
In the third inning, Shepherd homered to left field. In the fourth inning, Ryan Collins doubled and later scored on a wild pitch. In the fifth inning, Adam Frazier had a two-out RBI-single. In the seventh inning, Parks had a critical run-scoring single after Bradford ripped a leadoff double down the left field line.
The Bulldogs finished with 12 hits. Cody Freeman, Trey Johnson and Shepherd each had multiple hits.
The Tigers finished with 11 hits. Mikie Mahtook, Austin Nola and Tyler Hanover each had multiple hits. Starter Kurt McCune threw five innings for the Tigers. Kevin Berry threw the next two, before giving way to Ott.