Conner Hale's two-run double in the top of the 14th inning provided the winning runs as No. 1 LSU survived a scare against Mississippi State to pull off the 5-3 victory Thursday night in Starkville.
Jared Poche' pitched nine innings, allowing eight hits and just two earned runs, even though he didn't get a decision. Jake Godfrey improved to 7-0 with the win in relief and Jesse Stallings earned his 12th save. Parker Bugg and Zach Person also contributed to five scoreless innings from the bullpen.
Before Hale's heroics came some of the most timely defense the Tigers have played all season. After the game was tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, junior shortstop Alex Bregman made a diving stop to keep the ball in the infield and prevent the winning run for the Bulldogs from crossing home. Not long after that, Zac Person would end the 10th inning with a strikeout to keep Mississippi State at bay.
The Bulldogs (23-23, 7-15) jumped out to a 2-0 first inning lead on Poche', but the Lutcher lefty didn't allow another run until the ninth. The Tigers (39-7, 15-6) tied the game in the fourth on Danny Zardon's RBI single and took a 3-2 lead in the fifth when Kade Scivicque's double play grounder scored Alex Bregman.
Mississippi State had several chances to upset top-ranked LSU, including a play in the bottom of the ninth inning when Reid Humphreys' deep drive to center went over Andrew Stevenson's head to drive in the tying run. However, pinch runner Matt Spruill tripped rounding third base for what might have been the game-winner and Bregman's relay from Stevenson to Scivicque caught him off the bag.
The defensive play of the game, and there were many to choose from, came in the bottom of the 11th when Jake Fraley threw out the winning run at the plate from left field, as Jacob Robson tried to score the game-winning run on Ryan Gridley's single to left.
Behind more great pitching, Person and then Godfrey, the Tigers took the momentum into the 14th, where the offense finally came to life after being held scoreless since the fifth inning. Hale was just 1-6 going into his final at bat, but after the game, said he had no problem shaking off his previous struggles.
From there, Stallings handled business for the save.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday on ESPNU.
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