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MSU misfires against ULL, faces do-or-die game tonight

Published 10:12 am Monday, June 2, 2014

Mississippi State’s first chance to clinch a berth in the NCAA Tournament’s super regional round ended, appropriately enough, with a swing and a miss.

Eight of Louisiana-Lafayette’s nine starters had at least one hit, seven drove in at least one run, and the Ragin’ Cajuns staved off elimination by beating Mississippi State 14-8 Sunday night in the Lafayette Regional.

ULL’s win sets up a winner-take-all championship game tonight at 6. The winner will face either Ole Miss or Washington in next weekend’s super regional round.

“You can’t give Lafayette enough credit,” Mississippi State coach John Cohen said. “They did a great job. They swung the bats well. They had a good game plan. We played really well the last five innings. You have to do things to disrupt the timing (of Louisiana-Lafayette). I thought we did that at the end and we need to carry that over to (Monday night).”

Mississippi State (39-23) had 14 hits Sunday night. Brett Pirtle went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs, C.T. Bradford was 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs scored, and Wes Rea hit a solo home run in the ninth inning. The Bulldogs scored five runs over the last three innings, but all that did was make the score look closer than the game really was.

Louisiana-Lafayette (56-8) scored in each of the first six innings and blew the game open with a six-run outburst in the fourth.

Jace Conrad went 3-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs, and Blake Trahan had three hits and scored three runs. Seth Harrison was 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored, and his two-run double was one of six hits for the Cajuns during the big fourth inning.

In two games Sunday — the win over Mississippi State and an earlier losers’ bracket game against Jackson State — the Cajuns scored 25 runs.

“We knew the guy that they were throwing was the same type of guy that Jackson State threw the first game, so we had a pretty good idea what our approach needed to be,” Harrison said. “We just wanted to come and show them whose field this is and whose home it is and we gave it to them tonight.”

The guy Mississippi State threw was its ace, Ross Mitchell. He entered the game with an 8-4 record and 2.10 ERA, but had his worst outing of the season. Mitchell was roughed up for six runs on seven hits in just three innings of work.

Relievers Myles Gentry and Brandon Woodruff fared no better, combining to allow seven runs in 1 2/3 innings as the game spiraled out of control.

Afterward, Cohen tried to find whatever positives he could, and there were a few.

First, the Bulldogs are still standing. They won their first two games in the regional and had the luxury of losing one.

And, secondly, they did manage to salvage some momentum with their late surge. After falling behind 13-3 after six innings, MSU scored twice in the seventh and eighth, once in the ninth, and had a runner on base when Matthew Britton struck out swinging to end the game.

Cohen was hopeful those last few innings will carry over to tonight, when there is no more margin for error.

“Our goal now is to come out and replicate what we did in the last five innings of this game,” Cohen said. “Our kids will come out and compete. This was a great atmosphere tonight. We know (Monday night) will be the same thing. We have to come out and be ready to compete. I think we will give a great effort.”