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LSU beats MSU to clinch another series

 

Matthew Stevens

 

STARKVILLE -- According to an old saying, shame on Mississippi State University baseball.  

 

LSU senior first baseman Mason Katz fooled MSU again for a home run after hitting two Friday night at Dudy Noble Field.  

 

Katz took a first-inning fastball from starting pitcher Evan Mitchell deep over the trailers in the left-field lounge to get No. 7 LSU started on the way to a 7-1 victory against No. 13 MSU on Saturday night.  

 

The home run was Katz's seventh in the past five games. Katz, who leads the Southeastern Conference in slugging percentage at .818, has more home runs than five SEC programs this season.  

 

Mitchell lasted just four innings and 69 pitches. Thanks to a pair of errors and three walks, Mitchell couldn't give the Bulldogs (18-4, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) a quality start. Only one MSU pitcher -- Jacob Lindgren on March 1 -- has gone six innings this month. 

 

"I was getting behind in the counts later in the game, which I guess caused me to come out of the game earlier than I like," Evan Mitchell said. "They got hitters up and down this lineup, and when Katz is hitting fifth, you know they're dangerous." 

 

On the next batter after MSU pitching coach Butch Thompson removed Mitchell (0-1) from the game, LSU's JaCoby Jones delivered a two-run double to the right-center gap in the fifth inning. Jones, a Richton native who was the 2010 Louisville Slugger Mississippi Player of the Year, deposited an off-speed pitch from sophomore left-hander Ross Mitchell into the outfield. 

 

LSU shortstop Alex Bregman added a three-run home run off redshirt freshman right-hander Preston Brown in the ninth. Just three pitches into his first SEC appearance, Brown served Bregman a belt-high curveball that he hit deep over the left-field wall. The blast sent most of the announced crowd of 9,341 home early. 

 

"(MSU pitching coach) Butch Thompson goes out there and we got first base and we tell him to work outside the zone, sink it, move it but do not throw a breaking ball," MSU coach John Cohen said. "The next pitch he throws a breaking ball and it leaves the yard. You got a freshman that really struggled with listening and hasn't thrown a curveball since he arrived here at Mississippi State." 

 

LSU starting pitcher Ryan Eades (4-0) lowered his rotation-leading ERA from 1.80 to 1.69 by holding MSU to six hits in seven innings. Eades, a prospect for the 2013 MLB draft this June because of velocity and his performance the past seasons in the Cape Cod League, which is regarded as the nation's top summer wood bat league, had eight strikeouts in a 108-pitch effort. 

 

Senior designated hitter Trey Porter had back-to-back doubles to increase his hit streak to four consecutive games for MSU. Porter (3-for-4) had his first three-hit game of the season. He entered the game with two extra-base hits in 43 at-bats. 

 

Seven players have occupied the 7-8-9 spots in MSU's order. Those players are 1-for 22 this weekend. 

 

"We're going to put some guys at the bottom of the lineup that can contribute, but they're just not, and that's a fact," Cohen said. "We still feel good about having the right athletes and need some guys to get some experience." 

 

With the victory, LSU (18-1, 2-0) clinched its seventh-consecutive series victory against MSU and its fifth straight in Starkville dating back a decade. Cohen's record as a coach of a SEC program against LSU fell to 10-16. 

 

MSU will try to avoid getting swept by LSU for the first time since 2008 today when it sends senior right-hander Kendall Graveman (1-1, 2.61) to the mound. The last time LSU swept MSU in Starkville was 1964 in a two-game series. The Tigers have never accomplished the feat in a three-game series. LSU will counter with sophomore Cody Glenn (3-0, 0.73). In his last appearance against LSU, Graveman threw a complete game and allowed just one run in a 101-pitch effort. 

 

"We need him desperately to get a ton of ground balls, and hopefully that will be exactly what he'll do for us," Cohen said.  

 

 

 

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