At this point in the season wins are less about style points and margin of victory and more about... well just plain winning. Thank goodness that was the case for Mississippi State Tuesday night against Georgia, because the Bulldogs nearly let one slip away against their red and black counterparts. Fortunately, though, they did not, and a 10th inning rally capped by Gavin Collins' score on a sac bunt errant throw was enough to give MSU the 5-4 win in Tuesday's opening round of the 2014 SEC Baseball Tournament.
Even though early on the story may have been those, uh, interesting uniforms by Adidas, the real story last night was the performance by State's Lucas Laster. Laster has been really good in his last several outings, but none has been better than what he put together last night - an 8.1 inning, 8 strikeout performance where he was able keep State in the game until the offense showed up late.
The offense that I mention came in the 6th inning when big Wes Rea provided a huge pinch-hit two-RBI double to the gap to push MSU ahead 3-2 at the time. Rea was coming in cold in a big spot, but he delivered in equal measure when State needed it most. MSU would go on to add another run that inning thanks to some savvy baserunning by Derrick Armstrong and the Bulldogs took a seemingly safe 4-2 lead into the game's final innings.
After two more innings of easy work, Lucas Laster was finally relieved in the ninth by closer Jonathan Holder, who wasn't able to hold the lead and secure Laster's win. Four singles and a wild pitch tied the game up in the ninth, sending it to extras where State was able to win it in the tenth.
While MSU's offensive output wasn't exactly awe-inspiring last night, the Bulldogs did enough to get the win, and at this point in the season that's all that matters. The Wes Rea double in the sixth was so big; not just for State at that moment but for Rea and his confidence. State fans are all sitting on the edge of their seats waiting to see if Wes can become the player he was last postseason. If he can, then MSU may be in business. Again, though, the story of the night was Laster, who outside of basically one inning was flat out dominant. It's encouraging for State fans to see Laster pitching this well as we head into the most important part of the season, but it's also so awesome to see a guy who wasn't even on the travel roster when SEC play started getting a chance and taking full advantage of it. If Laster can continue to pitch this way and Preston Brown gets back to pre-injury Preston Brown, State could really be in business going forward.
With the loss, Georgia joins Tennessee, Texas A&M, and Alabama as teams heading home. With the win, State moves on to play South Carolina tonight with first pitch set for 30 minutes after the conclusion of #1 Florida vs. #9 Kentucky at 4:30 p.m.