The ball landed in Greg Deichmann’s glove.
The glove was perfectly positioned to catch the throw from LSU shortstop Kramer Robertson, who fielded Mississippi State leadoff hitter Jake Mangum’s routine ground ball in the sixth inning of Saturday’s 2-1 loss in Alex Box Stadium.
“The throw didn’t pull me off,” Deichmann said. “It was a matter of a little pull of my leg. It wasn’t a bad throw. I thought I held the bag.”
He did not. Mangum was safe on the routine play.
“His foot was off the base,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said matter-of-factly. “It’s a routine throw, and his foot was off the base by 6 inches. I haven’t talked to Greg, so I don’t know why. Robertson made a beautiful play; the throw was right on the money, and it pulled his foot off the base.”
To that point, LSU starter Alex Lange had fired first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 19 hitters he faced, including Mangum. He cruised through five innings on 53 pitches, his only blemish a solo home run on his fourth pitch of the game to Jack Kruger. Lange commanded his fastball precisely while mixing in more of his changeup to go with a curve that was tight, hard and effective at any point in the count.
After Deichmann’s error, the next four batters saw first-pitch balls — including Reid Humphreys, who hit a sinking liner to center field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Mangum as an unearned run.
It made the score 2-0 — and that was enough of a cushion for Bulldogs starter Austin Sexton, who became the first Southeastern Conference pitcher in the past month to quell LSU’s suddenly formidable bats.
Sexton was not like his LSU counterpart. His fastball isn’t overpowering; it topped out at 90 mph and settled in the high 80s. But his heavy mix of changeups and curves baffled the Tigers. He did not allow a runner to second base through seven innings.
“(Sexton) just threw a bunch of junk up there,” Mainieri said. “Changeups and breaking balls. It took us a long time to adjust to him. We knew that’s what he was, but then you get up there and you keep thinking you’re going to get a fastball to hit, and you never get it. We didn’t make a lot of good, strong contact against him. Everything was very weak, and they played really good defense.”
LSU (26-13, 9-8) mustered five hits off the right-hander — two from Antoine Duplantis and another from pinch-hitter Beau Jordan to kick-start an eighth-inning rally and finally chase Sexton.
Jordan, who was benched by an illness to start the game and received intravenous fluids throughout, stroked a single through the left side. Cole Freeman squared to bunt in the next at-bat but took a pitch off the helmet, sending a nervous hush over the crowd as Mainieri and trainer Cory Couture sprinted to his aid.
Freeman remained in the game, moving up a base along with Beau Jordan after Duplantis’ groundout. Sexton was lifted in favor of left-handed reliever Daniel Brown, who issued an RBI groundout to Jake Fraley but stranded Freeman — the tying run — 90 feet away at third when No. 3 hitter Jordan Romero popped out.
“We just were a hit short,” Mainieri said.
Added Robertson: “(Sexton) threw all three pitches where he wanted. He located all three pitches exactly where the catcher was telling him. If you throw all your pitches for strikes, it’s a recipe for success, and he was outstanding tonight.”
The loss sullied what Mainieri called Lange’s best outing of the season.
The reigning National Freshman of the Year motored through Mississippi State’s hitters with ease, inducing contact early in counts while striking out seven in a nine-inning, four-hit performance on just 99 pitches.
“This was one of my better commanded games,” Lange said. “Breaking ball was good, I thought my changeup was good, and I was locating both sides of the plate. I just settled into a groove and I thought I did really well. … (Sexton) is doing the same thing; that’s what makes it fun. That’s what SEC baseball is about. It was fun, but obviously we wanted a different turnout.”
Still touching 93 mph in the ninth inning, Lange struck out the first two hitters before fielding Elih Marrero’s tough comebacker, tossing to first and yelling loudly to his dugout, urging an offensive rally that nearly materialized.
Robertson shot a one-out double into the right-center field gap — LSU’s only extra-base hit of the night — but was stranded as the tying run at third after Bryce Jordan’s grounder and Chris Reid’s lineout.
The frustratingly familiar finish gave Mississippi State (27-12-1, 10-7) its first series win against LSU in Mainieri’s tenure, a night after a three-error game plagued the Tigers in a 12-8 loss.
“Basically, we lost the game because our first baseman didn’t keep his foot on the base on a routine play, on a perfect throw,” Mainieri said. “That ends up being the winning run. I always worried about our defense, especially in the infield, and these two games it’s really come back to bite us. In SEC games, there’s no margin for error.”