FULTON, Miss. – Austin Kirkpatrick lifted a fifth-inning grand slam to help No. 1 LSU Eunice overcome an early four-run hole on the way to an 8-6 Region 23 Tournament opening win over No. 9 Northwest Mississippi on Wednesday at Roy Cresap Field.
The Bengals (49-6) advanced to winner’s bracket play and will face the winner of host Itawamba and Mississippi Gulf Coast on Thursday at 7:00 PM.
Kirkpatrick hammered a 1-2 slider to left center to give LSUE its first lead of the game, 7-5. It was the captain’s third home run of the season and Kirkpatrick’s first since March 9. Northwest would get within one after a run in the eighth before Evan Keller provided a valuable insurance run off a bunt single later that inning.
Dane Dixon would shake off a four-run second inning to put in one of his best statistical outings of the season. Dixon (W, 13-0) struck out five consecutive batters after that frame, in route to a career-high 12 punch outs. The redshirt sophomore tossed 6.1 innings, scattering five earned runs off nine hits and one walk.
Tod Gauthe bridged 1.2 innings of work before Landon Clifton picked up his seventh save of the season. Clifton struck out two batters to put down the Rangers in order in the ninth. The LSUE pitchers combined to strike out 16 Northwest batters on the day while yielding two walks.
Northwest gained the early edge off a two-run double from Peyton Mills and a two-run home run by Hammer Franks. Tristan Welch’s third-inning sacrifice fly would put the Bengals on the board, followed by an RBI single from River Town an inning later to make it a 4-2 game.
The Rangers would strike again in the fifth inning with a Hayden Leatherwood solo home run before the Bengals would piece together their five-run frame to take the lead for good. Nick Bellina would stroke a line drive up the middle to plate Jarrett McDonald to cut the deficit to 5-3. Slate Fuller would be hit by a pitch to load the bases and set the stage for Kirkpatrick’s slam.
Kirkpatrick had a hand in six of the team’s eight runs while Keller turned in the only multi-hit game, going 3-for-4 on the afternoon.
A live stream of tomorrow’s game can be found on ICCTV at www.letsgoicc.com. Fans can find more news and information by following the baseball team’s Twitter (@LSUEBengalsBSB), Facebook (@LSUEBaseball) and Instagram (@LSUEBengals) accounts.