Baseball vs. Mississippi State

LSU baseball junior right-handed pitcher Ty Floyd (9) celebrates a successful inning with his teammates Saturday, May 13, 2023, during LSU's 9-4 loss to Mississippi State at Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

For the second straight week, game two came down to whether or not LSU’s shaky pitching depth could hold its opponent’s offense at bay down the stretch. Though starting pitcher Ty Floyd lasted six innings and the Tigers entered the eighth inning up 4-2, it faltered just like it did against Auburn. 

Through the past few weeks, the LSU bullpen has posed alarming inconsistency and lots of questions. 

Those weren’t based solely around the depth, which was dealt multiple heavy blows throughout April. They extended all of the way to the starting lineup, as its day-two and three starters in Ty Floyd and Christian Little each struggled to maintain success. 

While Floyd put it in an interesting position last weekend by getting relieved in the fourth and has had his issues lately, he put them in as good of a spot as he could this time around. 

His first inning on the mound was mildly shaky, as he surrendered an early hit to Mississippi State’s Colton Ledbetter before allowing him to advance on a balk one batter later. But with each of those mistakes, he responded by striking out the next batter, with the latter concluding the inning with the score still at 0-0. 

That carried into the next few innings, with Floyd attributing his third and fourth strikeouts after a double in the second and walk in the third respectively. Apart from the fifth, where he allowed one run, he barely slipped up Friday night. 

He threw 103 pitches through six innings, giving up five hits and one run while also landing a career high in strikeouts with 10. LSU head coach Jay Johnson believed his performance was one of the team’s biggest positives tonight. 

“I thought he extended what he did last week at the beginning of that game against Auburn, did it for three more innings,” Johnson said. “Really good performance out of him and one that we really needed.” 

Unfortunately for the Tigers, the first six innings were essentially a pitcher’s brawl. Mississippi State starter Cade Smith had a near-identical performance to Floyd, attributing seven strikeouts and allowing just two runs before being relieved before the seventh. At that point, the Tigers had just a 2-1 lead. 

“Just as far as pure stuff, I think Cade Smith’s one of the best guys we’ve seen,” Johnson said. 

Floyd scraped by winning that brawl, but that wouldn’t win the game for them. 

When he was relieved, Nate Ackenhausen went in to start the seventh and did alright, giving up two hits and one run to tie the game at two but pitching two strikeouts to get them out of a hole. But when Thatcher Hurd went in to start the eighth, things really fell apart. 

After LSU gave itself a two-run cushion heading into the final two innings, Hurd immediately got rid of it, giving up a double and two-run home run against his first two batters faced. Before he could obtain an out, Mississippi State had taking its first lead of the series. 

“Thatcher [Hurd] has been good four or five times in a row. Wasn’t tonight but he’ll bounce back,” Johnson said on Hurd. “I mean, he closed the game against Alabama, closed the game against Auburn, has weapons now to get both right and left hand hitters out.” 

The nail in the coffin came after Riley Cooper relieved Hurd. Just when it seemed like the Tigers were going to get bailed out, Mississippi State’s Colton Ledbetter made great contact with Cooper’s pitch and sent it over the right-field wall. With two on base for the Bulldogs, they managed to double LSU’s score, essentially putting the game out of reach. 

By the time the game ended, its relievers had surrendered eight runs in the final three innings. After spending the first 12 weeks as the No. 1 team in the country, the Tigers are at risk of dropping back-to-back series against unranked teams. 

“We’ve all got to be ready to go tomorrow, in small snippets,” Johnson said. “Hopefully we get a performance like we got from Ty [Floyd] tonight to make it a little bit easier. We’re not going to ask too much out of any of them, just need them to execute.” 

Game three takes place at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday. While it's not an end-all-be-all game for LSU, it’s important to replenish confidence heading into the SEC tournament.

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