Zach Watson was 3-for-5 at the plate with two RBI and two runs in LSU's 7-5 win over Missouri Sunday.
Kelly McDuff

Baseball Takes SEC Series Against No. 24 Missouri, 7-5

Chase Wales
Chase Wales
Communications Student Assistant

BATON ROUGE, La. – Freshman right-hander Ma'Khail Hilliard earned the win in his first career SEC start Sunday, and centerfielder Zach Watson collected three hits and two RBI as No. 16 LSU defeated No. 24, Missouri, 7-5, in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field.

With the win, LSU moved to 14-7 (2-1 SEC) on the season and Missouri fell to 15-5 (1-2 SEC). Sunday’s win clinched an SEC series victory for LSU on the opening weekend of conference play.

The Tigers will return to action on Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. for a matchup against the Tulane Green Wave in the final game of the Tigers’ current eight-game homestand. The game will be available on the SECNetwork+, which is accessible through WatchESPN and the WatchESPN app, and it can be heard on affiliates of the LSU Sports Radio Network.

Hilliard earned the win Sunday, improving to 5-0 on the season. He threw six innings, giving up two earned runs to go along with a career-high six strikeouts.

After allowing two runs in the top of the first inning, Hilliard settled into a groove and pitched five scoreless innings to complete his longest outing of the season.

“I thought Ma’Khail was really throwing the ball well, despite the fact Missouri scored two runs in the top of the first,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “He then throws five shutout innings, and you love that as a coach. It shows a lot of character when an athlete starts slow, but he buckles down and gives his team a chance to win.”

Missouri right-hander Andy Toelken (2-2) was charged with the loss. The LSU bats chased Toelken from the game after three innings, as he allowed six hits and three earned runs.

AJ Labas and Nick Bush each pitched a scoreless inning of relief in the seventh and eighth, respectively, before Austin Bain came in for the ninth and gave up a three-run home run off the bat of centerfielder Kameron Misner. Bain, however, struck out first baseman Brian Sharp and retired catcher Brett Bond on a pop-up to second base to end the game.

“Our bullpen was really outstanding,” Mainieri said. “Labas did a great job of bridging the gap to Bush, and Bush was awesome. Without an error on the first batter of the ninth, Bain’s inning might have been a little different. Like I told Austin, the key to being a good closer is get the third out of the ninth inning before they tie or take the lead. It doesn’t matter how pretty it is.”

Missouri jumped out to the early 2-0 lead in the top of the first behind a pair of RBI from Bond and DH Chad McDaniel. LSU countered in the bottom of the inning with a sacrifice fly from Antoine Duplantis that scored Watson, cutting Missouri’s lead to 2-1.

Watson picked up his first RBI of the game in the bottom of the second inning, scoring Chris Reid with a single to center field to tie the score at two runs apiece. LSU took the lead in the bottom of the third as catcher Hunter Feduccia plated Duplantis with an RBI single.

After two scoreless innings, LSU scored three times in the bottom of the sixth as shortstop Hal Hughes, Watson and second baseman Brandt Broussard each collected RBI singles to increase the Tigers’ lead to 6-2.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Duplantis legged out an RBI single to score Broussard from second after Broussard had just stolen his ninth base of the season, giving LSU a 7-2 lead.

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