May 19, 2017 12:08:34 AM
Brett Hudson - [email protected]
STARKVILLE -- All is not lost.
That is the message from all corners of the Mississippi State baseball program after Thursday night's 3-1 loss to LSU (37-17, 19-9 Southeastern Conference).
"The goal for the weekend, all you needed to do was come out here and win two ball games on the weekend," MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said. "We take it day by day, so losing the first battle doesn't cost us anything for the SEC West title."
The win did cost MSU (34-20, 17-11 SEC) any chance at the top seed in the SEC Tournament, as it needed a sweep and help from Kentucky to get into a three-way tie for first.
After the loss, MSU needs to win both the Friday and Saturday games to force a tie with LSU at a conference record of 19-11. The two would then finish as co-SEC West champions provided Arkansas does not sweep Texas A&M; the Razorbacks won the first game 6-4. If Arkansas sweeps the Aggies, it would finish with a conference record of 19-10 and win the division title on win percentage over MSU's hypothetical 19-11.
Arkansas played one less SEC game than schedule after a rainout against Tennessee.
Cannizaro was quick to remind players that the goal for the weekend remains in reach after the loss -- something they were already doing to themselves.
"A lot of people (in the stands) might put too much pressure on themselves, but we don't do that in the dugout," shortstop Ryan Gridley said. "We're as calm as can be and we're ready to go."
Tough luck for Pilkington
Many project MSU starting pitcher Konnor Pilkington to be one of the 2018 MLB Draft's top-rated starting pitcher prospects, if he chooses to forgo his senior season. His numbers from this season support that claim -- all of them but the win-loss record.
Pilkington was recorded as the losing pitcher Thursday night after throwing 6 innings of two-run baseball, allowing six hits. Pilkington's 605 record after the loss is an outlier compared to his other season statistics: a 3.41 earned run average and 63 hits allowed in 87 innings being two examples.
This was not the only time Pilkington has been recorded as the losing pitcher after a strong performance.
The strongest example is from MSU's conference opener at Arkansas. Pilkington pitched an eight-inning complete game, allowing four hits and three runs while striking out 13 in a 3-1 loss. He was similarly strong a loss two weeks prior at Oregon, throwing 7 innings and allowing the game's only run.
As MSU approaches postseason play, Pilkington is reaching better form. After a stretch of three starts in which he allowed 14 runs, 12 of them earned, over 16 innings, Pilkington's last two starts have gone a combined 14 innings with just 10 hits and two runs allowed.
Celebration Series continues
Thursday's game was the first of three days in which MSU will celebrate the history of Dudy Noble Field. MSU will be gin construction on it for a two-year renovation as soon as the home schedule concludes, be that after this weekend or after an NCAA regional.
Before Thursday's game, MSU honored its senior players, Diamond Girls and graduates. Before honoring the two seniors, Cody Brown and Josh Lovelady, the school held a makeshift graduation ceremony at home play for four players receiving degrees this spring: Brown, Lovelady, Brent Rooker and Jacob Billingsley.
MSU has plans to celebrate, "the fans who built the best atmosphere in college baseball," during Friday's game, including a first pitch ceremony honoring Left Field Lounge. The series finale Saturday will honor for MSU players and others in the program's history, including Dudy Noble's family.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, before the 3:30 game, MSU will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Dudy Noble Field. It will take place in between Dudy Noble Field and the Palmeiro Center.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson