His catcher’s interference call weighing on his mind, LSU catcher Chris Chinea felt so bad that he saddled up next to pitcher Jared Poché and made an athlete’s promise.
“I went up and said, ‘Hey, I got you,’ ” Chinea said.
Chinea smoked a fly out to the warning track to score the go-ahead and eventual winning run as LSU clinched a series win over Mississippi State with a 2-1 victory Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Chinea was called for catcher’s interference in the fourth inning, a ruling that cost Poche his only run and resulted in a 1-0 deficit for the Tigers.
The sophomore more than made up for it in the sixth, slamming Ross Mitchell’s 1-0 delivery near the left-field wall to score Alex Bregman.
LSU (23-8-1, 5-5-1 Southeastern Conference) scored its two runs in that sixth inning, getting a tying RBI single from Kade Scivicque, and Poché hurled a three-hitter through six innings, locking up another series victory over the Bulldogs (20-12, 6-5).
Coach Paul Mainieri, in his eighth year, is 8-0 in regular-season series against Mississippi State as LSU’s coach, beating State coach John Cohen for the sixth consecutive time.
The rivalry between these longtime SEC rivals had some added drama Saturday.
Cohen was ejected in the third inning in a dramatic display that had the 5,739 at Alex Box booing and then cheering as the Bulldogs coach left the stadium.
The Tigers sweated this one out, needing that sixth-inning outburst to win a third straight game and shake off the team’s first four-game losing skid in nearly three years.
“We never doubted ourselves,” Poché said.
Mark Laird started the rally in the sixth with a one-out single, and Bregman followed with a hard-hit grounder back to the pitcher. Mitchell lost control of the ball while it was in his glove, allowing Bregman to reach first on the error.
Scivicque followed with a single down the left-field line, and then Chinea had his skying shot to left-center.
“When I came up with my opportunity,” Chinea said, “(I) put the ball in play. Got the job done.”
Chinea, in and out of the starting lineup, entered the game hitting .188.
“He crushed it,” Mainieri said of the shot. “Chris played tonight because I thought he was a good matchup against Mitchell. Mitchell’s not a hard-thrower. Chris hits those kind of guys pretty well.”
Poché struck out six and walked two, winning a game against Mitchell, State’s best starter according to ERA. Mitchell (5-2, 1.54) was, at first, expected to pitch against LSU ace Aaron Nola on Friday.
“It was pretty obvious what they were doing, gerrymandering their rotation because they wanted to set up their No. 1 starter, who’s really an outstanding pitcher, Ross Mitchell, against our freshman, Jared Poché,” Mainieri said. “I think Jared took it personal.”
Poché (6-2, 2.25) showed poise during a rough second inning. He allowed a double to the first batter of the inning and committed an error. He retired the final two batters of the second to strand runners at second and third.
State had two runners on in the eighth inning before Joe Broussard retired the final batter to end the threat. Broussard got the last six outs, posting his seventh save of the year.
State jumped to that 1-0 lead in the fourth, a result of the catcher’s interference on Chinea. The call came with two outs and on the at-bat of Derrick Armstrong. His grounder would have ended the inning.
Instead, the Bulldogs had two on with two outs. Demarcus Henderson then smoked a liner to center to score the run.
Oddly enough, Cohen was ejected in part for arguing a possible catcher’s interference in the third inning on Matthew Britton’s at-bat.
Britton, who was leading off the third, was put out on a bang-bang play at first base. Cohen argued for more than a couple of minutes with home plate umpire Joe Judkowitz before returning to the dugout.
He was ejected after the next batter, Jake Vickerson, grounded out. Judkowitz tossed Cohen while the coach stood in the dugout yelling in his direction.
After the ejection signal, Cohen bolted from the dugout, charging at Judkowitz and getting inches from the umpire’s face. The crowd booed and then cheered as Cohen headed into the dugout to exit the stadium.