Heading into the bottom of the ninth, LSU was an offense that looked dead in the water. Trailing 2-1 in the ninth and down to their final out, the Tigers exploded for four runs in the inning to capture a 5-2 win over Mississippi State.
It was the first game one SEC series win of the season for LSU (21-9, 5-5) and to do it in the comeback fashion displayed Friday night was another sign of growth for this group. Not only down to their final out but their final strike, catcher Hayden Travinski worked his way to a walk and pinch hitter Josh Stevenson was hit by a pitch to put the Tigers in position.
To that point, LSU had collected just three hits and were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position. But turning the top of the lineup over one last time was just what the doctor ordered as Tre' Morgan delivered a clutch single that scored two and Dylan Crews capped off the inning with an opposite field home run to put the Tigers over the top.
For this very talented offense to overcome what was an otherwise disappointing game to that point, striking out 13 times with just three hits before the ninth inning explosion, shows just how mentally tough this team can be when clicking at the right time.
What kept the LSU offense in the game was the performance of Ma'Khail Hilliard on the mound, who did his job in keeping this Mississippi State offense from pulling away in his six innings on the mound. Hilliard's breaking ball was the true winner of the night, consistently confusing the Bulldogs' hitters, punching out five and getting off the field with clutch pitches.
Hilliard's trouble in the game came in the fifth when Mississippi State put two runs on the board as a trio of singles led to the Bulldogs taking a small 2-1 advantage. The senior ran into more trouble in the seventh, allowing a double and single to put runners on the corners before being replaced by Eric Reyzelman.
What was impressive about Hilliard's start was his ability to keep his pitch count low, advancing past the sixth inning despite allowing 11 hits, saving a number of LSU's big bullets out of the bullpen for later this weekend. Reyzelman's seventh inning was one of the best stands of the season for the Tigers as he retired three of the next four batters with a pair of strikeouts to keep it a one run game.
With Bulldogs starter Preston Johnson finally being replaced in the seventh inning, the offense needed to find some semblance of a pulse, having gone the entirety of the game since the first inning without a hit. It came a little late but the that's better than never as LSU pulled off a potential season altering win.
LSU will look to clinch the series Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.
(Photo courtesy of LSUsports)