June 4, 2014 1:31:02 PM
LAFAYETTE, La. -- Mississippi State's coaching staff preaches to keep to keep the game in front of them.
The reason the 2014 season is over for the Bulldogs is the catcher Gavin Collins spent way too much time turning his head and looking back for the baseball after pitches. In a third inning that completely got away from MSU reliever Jacob Lindgren, Louisiana-Lafayette used the left-hander's wildness to plate three early runs in a 5-3 victory Monday night.
For a program that prides itself on pitching and defense to get them through pressure situations, in the biggest spots of the season both of those elements let MSU down in a big way during a winner-take-all game.
MSU starting pitcher Lucas Laster (0-1) issued a one-out walk and allowed a run-scoring in the third inning. Two more walks loaded the bases before the Bulldogs went to Lindgren. Laster gave up three runs on three hits with three walks in 2 2/3 innings. ULL is now 17-1 this season in games where the opponent
Lindgren wild pitched a pair of runs home in the third inning as the Ragin' Cajuns' lead moved to 3-0.
"We have to play clean games to win championships," MSU coach John Cohen said. "That is how we are built. Baseball is a game of inches and it certainly was there in the third inning."
The wild pitch had been a bugaboo for MSU all season long as both Lindgren and junior right-hander Trevor Fitts led the Southeastern Conference in the pitching category and most of the wild pitches occurred with inexperienced catcher Gavin Collins behind home plate.
"His stuff is so good that two things happen," Cohen said. "It's hard for our catchers to catch it and it's hard for umpires too. The power stuff goes in two different directions so we had trouble keeping it in front of us tonight.'
Lindgren, who will likely be drafted in the first few rounds of the 2014 MLB draft due to his professional level fastball and slider combination, was the trump card not yet played in the Lafayette Regional until the final night. ULL knew he was coming and when he finally got into the game in the third inning, Lindgren didn't have his normal command of any pitch. The result was a team that Cohen said after the loss was "the most dangerous offense in the country" barely even had to even swing the bat to acquire a commanding lead in regional championship game.
"Early on I just didn't have any kind of command and I had to make big adjustments during the outing to even stay in the game at all," Lindgren said. "The adjustments started working but I just felt like we came up short in everything tonight."
In what was likely his final appearance for MSU, Lindgren managed to keep MSU in a game that would involve three straight runs for the Bulldogs in a comeback effort that would essentially end up being 90 feet from complete.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to one run in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs and two on, MSU senior outfielder C.T. Bradford singled to left center to bring home Matthew Britton. In the next at bat, Pirtle sent an RBI single through the right side of the infield to cut the Ragin' Cajuns advantage to 4-3.
With two on and two out in eighth inning, Matthew Britton struck out against one of ULL's quality relievers in right-hander Matt Plitt in what was the Bulldogs last chance to salvage a season-saving victory. "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."
ULL (57-8) won four straight games to fight back from the losers bracket to win the 2014 NCAA Lafayette Regional, its first regional championship since 2000. The Ragin' Cajuns will now host Ole Miss in the Super Regional round to get the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska.
Jace Conrad, from just four blocks away from M.L. Tigue Moore Field at Lafayette High School, took home the tournament's most outstanding player after another multi-hit game in which he scored a pair and drove in a run.
"We tried to jump on them early and hoped that it would just play to our benefit and it did," Conrad said. "We give credit to our pitchers; we only put up five runs for them today compared to the 14 yesterday. They did a great job of keeping their push and just get outs for us."
ULL closer Ryan Wilson was outstanding in his sixth start of the season limiting MSU to three runs on four hits in 6 2/3 innings to earn his sixth win of the year. Wilson seemed to struggle with the top of the MSU order but was able to pitch his way out of trouble before ULL built the insurmountable lead in the third inning.
"The one thing about him (Wilson) is I don't care where he's at, even if it's at 35 percent, he's going to throw down with all 35," Robichaux said. "So we knew that we had a chance because we knew we weren't going to have somebody that was going to pitch soft or pitch scared, he's never done that."
The victory marked the first time since the reinstitution of the four-team format that MSU (39-24) has lost a regional after winning the first two games of the tournament. The 2014 season will end with third year that MSU plays for a regional championship in the last four seasons.
"We have some senior guys who really acted like seniors and that's important," Cohen said. "You hate to see them go out that way but they've done a lot. Our goal was to win a postseason tournament four years in a row."
All of the Dispatch MSU Sports Blog readers: feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/matthewcstevens for up-to-date Mississippi State coverage.
5. Out and About for the week of December 21, 2014 ENTERTAINMENT