May 19, 2017 12:09:48 AM
Brett Hudson - email@example.com
STARKVILLE -- Opportunities to score on LSU starting pitcher Alex Lange have been rare for the entire Southeastern Conference this season. Mississippi State had plenty on Thursday night, but none of them came to fruition.
MSU went 0-13 with runners on base and 0-7 with runners in scoring position, leaving 12 runners on base as LSU (37-17, 19-9 SEC) took the first game of the series 3-1.
The loss drops MSU to 34-20, 17-11 in conference play but still in reach of an SEC West title.
"We did a great job of getting into scoring position against Alex. We had a couple of opportunities late in the game and we just weren't able to pick up the big hit tonight," MSU coach Andy Cannizaro said, adding he felt the team played well in every other regard.
"We defended really well, we threw strikes, we threw around some guys to make some other guys beat us, we were able to get those guys out tonight."
MSU took a quick lead on shortstop Ryan Gridley's home run in MSU's first at-bat of the game. Gridley, in his second game in the leadoff spot this season, expected to get a fastball in a 1-1 count and got it, hitting it over the left field wall.
LSU regained the lead with a two-run fourth, the only runs surrendered by starting pitcher Konnor Pilkington. MSU's opportunities to mount the comeback came in almost every inning after.
In the sixth inning, MSU loaded the bases with one out on a single by Hunter Vansau and a pair of walks from Josh Lovelady and Luke Alexander. A strikeout and a flyout ended the threat.
In the next inning, Gridley's leadoff single and walks from Cody Brown and Vansau loaded the bases again. A three-pitch strikeout ended the inning without a run. MSU also had the tying run at the plate twice in the ninth and failed to score the equalizer.
MSU credited most of those struggles to Lange's excellence. He ended with seven innings of six-hit, one-run pitching and 11 strikeouts.
"Every pitch was dotted exactly where he wanted," Gridley said. "He had two pitches going really well to right-handed hitters."
Cannizaro added, "It's not like they had some guy out there throwing 80 miles an hour. He's going to be a really rich kid in about three weeks (in the MLB Draft) and he earns each and every penny of that each time out."
The only think left is to move on.
"That was fun. I think everyone just said that, it was a fun game, but you know what's more fun? Winning," Gridley said. "That's what we're going to try to do (Saturday)."
Getting the pivotal win Friday will be easier said than done with LSU starting pitcher Jared Poche' scheduled to take the mound. Poche' is consistently rated among the best in the conference and the nation with his 3.16 earned run average entering Friday.
Cannizaro acknowledges the similar effectiveness between Poche' and Lange, but also sees them go about it in different ways.
"It's night and day," Gridley said. "(Poche's) got breaking balls that he'll run up there the first pitch of the game. I've seen him for two years now, he's a fantastic pitcher. He's got different pitches, but he'll dot his pitches just like Lange does."
Follow Dispatch sports writer Brett Hudson on Twitter, @Brett_Hudson