May 23, 2018 2:22:49 AM
HOOVER, Ala. -- The Mississippi State baseball team committed only one error, but multiple mistakes contributed to its early departure from Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.
MSU built a three-run lead in the first four innings only to see LSU capitalize on fielding miscues for an 8-5 victory Tuesday in an elimination game in the first round of the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Despite the loss, MSU (31-25) appears to be a safe bet to earn a bid Monday to the NCAA tournament.
"Five runs and 14 hits should be enough to win," MSU interim coach Gary Henderson said. "I thought we hit a lot of balls on the nose and performed well against a good pitching staff."
The miscues began when starting pitcher Konnor Pilkington, pitching on two days fewer rest than normal, fielded a bunt with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. Pilkington had enough time to throw to first base to retire the batter-runner, but he didn't throw the ball because he couldn't obtain a proper grip. The ensuing fly out, which would have ended the inning, was a sacrifice fly that put LSU (34-23) on the board.
The Tigers then singled to draw within a run.
After throwing 100 pitches Thursday, Pilkington threw 69 against LSU in 4 2/3 innings. He allowed four hits and two runs and struck out five.
"Really pleased with Konnor's start on four days of rest," Henderson said. "He did a really good job for us."
Freshman first baseman Tanner Allen's RBI single in the top of the sixth extended MSU's lead to 4-2, but LSU used a sacrifice fly and an RBI single to tie the game after six innings.
MSU's second miscue gave LSU its first lead.
Zach Neff, the second of five relief pitchers, fielded a hard-hit ground ball from Austin Bain and didn't throw, turning to first to take one out. The move allowed LSU to have runners on second and third. An intentional walk loaded the bases. MSU then turned to Blake Smith, who hit a batter with a 1-2 pitch. A sacrifice fly gave the Tigers a 6-4 lead.
The Tigers then took advantage of an errant two-out pickoff throw by Cole Gordon that allowed the runner to move from first to third. LSU used a triple and a single to score two more runs.
MSU took a 3-0 lead on a two-run double by freshman third baseman Justin Foscue in the third and Allen's sacrifice fly in the fourth.
The NCAA will release the 16 teams that will play host to a four-team regionals Sunday night. The rest of the bracket will be revealed at 11 a.m. Monday (ESPNU).
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