3 key plays that got the LSU baseball team to the College World Series – SECcountry.com
BATON ROUGE, La. — The crucial plays that LSU baseball made in its Super Regional sweep of Mississippi State are pretty obvious for the most part. They’re the ones that show up in the postgame highlights.
But every game has a handful of more subtle moments that make those big plays possible. The Super Regional series was no exception to that rule.
Here’s a look at three moments against the Bulldogs that ended up playing a large part in LSU clinching its 18th trip to the College World Series.
Moment 1: Alex Lange escapes the first inning
The book on Alex Lange is this: jump on him early, or don’t jump on him at all.
TCU rocked him for six runs in 1.2 innings in early March. In a no-decision LSU eventually won at Kentucky on April 21, the Wildcats scored all three runs in the first four innings. Needless to say, most teams don’t end up jumping on Lange at all.
Mississippi State had the opportunity to do so in Game 1, though.
Lange was a little too pumped up in the first inning, loading the bases on two walks and a single before plunking a Bulldog to bring the first run home with one out. But he escaped the situation unharmed from there on out, relying on his stellar stuff for back-to-back strikeouts.
Mississippi State did add two more runs when Lange ran out of gas in the eighth inning. But that wasn’t enough to provide separation from LSU’s offense. A knockout punch against Lange in the first could have forced the Tigers to go to their bullpen much earlier than hoped for and changed the complexion of the series — especially given Jared Poché’s rough start in Game 2.
Moment 2: Antoine Duplantis’ base-hit over shortstop
Kramer Robertson’s leadoff walk in the eighth inning was the spark that lit LSU’s four-run rally to win Game 1. But that rally could have suffered a premature demise if not for Antoine Duplantis coming through with a one-out single after Cole Freeman harmlessly flew out.
And it wasn’t just that Duplantis got a hit — it’s that he came so very close to being robbed of one. Duplantis ripped a line drive just over the head of 5-foot-8 Mississippi State shortstop Ryan Gridley. If that ball was hit just a few inches lower, or if Gridley were a couple inches taller, it’s a potential inning-ending and momentum-killing double play.
Instead, it set the stage for Greg Deichmann’s two-run double to get LSU on the scoreboard.
Moment 3: Caleb Gilbert puts out the fire
The third inning of Game 2 was an ugly frame for LSU. The Bulldogs scored four runs and knocked Tigers starter Poché out of the game. But if not for Caleb Gilbert, the damage could have been much worse.
Gilbert wasn’t perfect. He allowed back-to-back singles after coming into a bases-loaded situation, allowing State to take the lead. But he settled in after that much like Lange the night before. Gilbert got Hunter Vansau looking, then got Josh Lovelady to bounce into a fielder’s choice on the first pitch of the next at-bat.
Mississippi State may have had the lead, but one run wasn’t nearly a large enough margin for the Bulldogs’ depleted bullpen to hold down. Their chance to force Game 3 hinged on knocking Gilbert around. Instead, he retired 13 straight batters after getting out of the jam.