Loss in finale costs Bulldogs bye
Published 11:59 pm Saturday, May 17, 2014
A tie, a rainout, a string of blowouts and a last-day loss all conspired against Mississippi State on Saturday to cost the Bulldogs a first-round bye in the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Mikey White and Ben Moore hit solo home runs to lead Alabama to a 2-1 victory over Mississippi State on the final day of the regular season.
Meanwhile, down the road in Auburn, LSU capped off a dominating three-game sweep by routing the host Tigers 8-1.
Although Mississippi State (35-20, 18-12 SEC) had more wins than LSU (40-14-1, 17-11-1), the Tigers finished with a higher winning percentage — .603 to .600 — and received the No. 4 overall seed and a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament.
“We’ve had a good SEC year, so we’ve got to go into the tournament and keep the momentum going,” MSU second baseman Brett Pirtle said. “We’ll just keep doing the simple things and try not to do too much.”
Mississippi State got the No. 5 seed and will play an elimination game Tuesday night against 12th-seeded Georgia. The winner advances to play South Carolina on Wednesday night.
LSU will await the winner of Vanderbilt and Tennessee on Wednesday morning.
LSU benefited from a tie with Georgia on March 23, and a rainout with Alabama last Sunday. The tie, which was the result of the SEC’s Sunday travel curfew, counted for half a win in the standings. The rainout kept the Tigers from risking another loss.
LSU, though, did plenty on its own to put itself in a position to swoop in and steal the final bye from the Bulldogs.
It scored 56 runs on 61 hits in four games this week. After crushing Northwestern State 27-0 on Tuesday night, LSU outscored Auburn 29-4 in its three-game sweep to finish the regular season.
“This weekend culminated an excellent regular season for our team. Forty wins is really a benchmark of excellence in college baseball,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We had a difficult stretch in late March, but our guys have competed with great energy and enthusiasm, and we’re playing very well at the most important time of the year.”
Mississippi State still controlled its fate in the SEC race heading into Saturday’s regular-season finale. A win would have locked up the No. 4 seed.
The Bulldogs, though, went into an offensive funk after scoring nine runs in Thursday night’s opener. They only scored one run in the last two games of the series and were shut out Saturday for the first time since April 4 against LSU.
We need to tighten up some things in the postseason,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “We went 11-4 in our last 15 conference games and I am really proud of the kids for that. We made a run last year at this time. Hopefully, we are in a position to do that. We have been playing well.”
Justin Kamplain held MSU to three hits in 5 1/3 innings. Jay Shaw followed with 1 1/3 innings of one-run relief, and Thomas Burrows threw the last 2 1/3 for his 10th save of the season.
State’s lone run came off Shaw in the seventh inning. Derrick Armstrong led off with a walk, advanced to third on a wild pitch and ground out, then scored on another ground out by Seth Heck.
MSU then stranded two runners in the eighth and didn’t do anything with a two-out single by Alex Detz in the ninth.
“We gave up two 0-0 pitch home runs,” Cohen said. “That was their MO coming in and we knew it. We just didn’t generate offense. We did a good job of competing. Our hitters are getting serious about the last four or five innings and they need to be serious about nine innings.”
Heck had two hits and an RBI for State, which only had five hits in the game. Ben Bracewell struck out five batters in 4 2/3 innings of relief.
Wade Wass and Casey Hughston each had two hits for Alabama, which played its last game at Sewell-Thomas Stadium before it’s renovated in the offseason.
White’s home run came on the first pitch of the game, and Moore’s in the fifth inning. Alabama will play Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.
“We were really able to play a little long ball today,” Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said “(White) hits the first pitch of the game out of the park and (Moore) delivers one again later. With that said, it was a good team effort today and a good win against a really good Mississippi State team that played really well all weekend.”