STARKVILLE, Miss. – First-Team All-American senior left-hander Joey Lucchesi broke Southeast Missouri’s all-time career strikeout record in a 9-5 loss to #4 Mississippi State Friday during the opening game of the NCAA Regional at Dudy Noble Field.
Southeast (39-20) will face the loser of Louisiana Tech (40-18) and Cal State Fullerton (35-21) in an elimination game at 1:30 p.m., CT, Saturday.
The Redhawks broke a 4-4 deadlock when Chris Osborne hit Ryan Rigby’s first offering for a two-out infield single to regain a one-run edge for Southeast in the top of the sixth.
Southeast’s final lead, however, was short-lived as MSU scored five unanswered runs, including three in the bottom of the sixth inning to put the game away.
Aided by a leadoff error by first baseman Garrett Gandolfo, the Bulldogs (42-16-1) scored a pair of unearned runs and added one more to take their first lead. Jacob Robson scored the go-ahead run on Ryan Gridley’s single through the right side. Reid Humphreys touched home on a double play and Hunter Stovall scored on a wild pitch to grab MSU a 7-5 cushion.
A two-run inside the park home run by Jack Kruger with two outs sealed it for the Bulldogs in the eighth inning.
Southeast put pressure on First-Team All-SEC starting pitcher Dakota Hudson in the top of the second.
Gandolfo drew a leadoff walk and advanced to third on Dan Holst‘s ensuing double to left center. On the next play, Hunter Leeper reached on a fielder’s choice and Gandolfo was thrown out at the plate. Scott Mitchellthen singled home Holst for the game’s first run.
MSU answered when designated hitter Brent Rooker began the bottom of the second with a solo home run. Rooker, ahead 2-0 in the count, drove Lucchesi’s pitch over the right field wall to pull the Bulldogs within a run.
Southeast started the third inning just like it did in the second, this time with a leadoff walk by Chris Osborne. Branden Boggetto smacked a double to right center on the fourth pitch of his at-bat and Osborne scored.
Boggetto’s 18th double extended his hitting streak to 22 games as it tied Jacksonville State’s Daniel Clayton for the longest in the Ohio Valley Conference this season.
Southeast tacked on another run in the third when Holst laid down a perfect bunt up the first baseline on a safety squeeze to get Boggetto home and widen the Redhawks lead to 4-1.
The Bulldogs tied the game with three two-out runs in the bottom of the third.
Back-to-back singles to right field by Nathaniel Lowe and Gavin Collins gave MSU runners at the corners. Rooker stepped in and delivered his second home run to bring the game to a 4-4 deadlock. Osborne was camped under Rooker’s hit to straightaway center which had just enough distance to leave the ballpark.
Southeast, ranked fourth in the nation in bases on balls, drew its fourth of the game when Lees walked out of the nine-hole with one out in the fourth inning. That was the end for Hudson who gave way to Rigby.
“If you would’ve told me we would knock their ace out early with four runs on the board before the game, I would’ve taken that every single time with our guy on the mound,” said Southeast head coach Steve Bieser. “We had a great approach all game, especially against Hudson; we were really locked in and had great approaches against him. We knew he was a tough matchup for our club but I feel we did a good job facing him.”
Reliever Daniel Brown (4-2) was credited with the win after no-hitting Southeast and striking out four in 3.1 scoreless innings. Brown retired 10 of the 11 hitters he faced.
Lucchesi (10-5) scattered 10 hits, allowed seven runs and struck out four in 5.1 innings. He ran his career strikeout total to 242, surpassing Southeast Hall of Famer Trae Hastings’ (1975-78) previous record of 239, which stood for 38 years. He pitched off four days rest after picking up a three-inning save in the Redhawks OVC Tournament Championship victory on May 29.
Offensively, MSU pounded out 14 hits with Rooker hitting a pair of home runs, scoring twice and finishing with four RBIs to lead the way. Six different Bulldogs had multiple hits on the day.
“The biggest thing is there’s no soft spot in their lineup and that wears on pitching staffs,” commented Bieser. “Joey’s a fine pitcher and he has been all season long but their offense was grinding on him a little bit. Despite Joey running on a couple days less rest, he’s a competitor but big swings all up and down their lineup wore on him and the big swings from Rooker made a significant impact in this game.”
Boggetto and Osborne were responsible for four of Southeast’s seven hits. Each went 2-for-3 with a run scored and RBI. Boggetto left the game in the bottom of the fifth inning with an injured right hand.
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