By LUKE JOHNSON
Tiger Rag Editor
After collecting two more hits and scoring an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth that provided the final margin of LSU’s 4-2 win against Purdue, sophomore shortstop Alex Bregman had a message to share with anyone willing to listen.
Recorders beeped. Pens hovered over notebooks. Bregman smiled.
"All of our hitters before the game packed our bags and we got on the train on the way to Rake City, ok?” Bregman said. "We unpacked when we got there, and I think we're going to stay for awhile. Ok?”
What about the first six innings, when LSU was held to four hits and didn’t advance a runner past second base?
"It was a long trip,” Bregman said.
LSU (12-2) struggled to get anything going early against Purdue (1-9) and starter Gavin Downs, who was mixing his speeds and keeping LSU’s batters off balance early. But a leadoff single by Sean McMullen – who was hitting in the cleanup spot for the first time this season – and a hit by pitch followed by a sacrifice bunt chased him from the ball game, and it was open season on the bullpen.
Purdue summoned a left-hander from the bullpen to face Andrew Stevenson, and after a lengthy battle Stevenson finally got LSU on the board when he hammered a sacrifice fly down the left field line to score McMullen.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri subbed Conner Hale into the game for left-handed hitter Tyler Moore, and Purdue countered by sending right-hander Mike Lutz in the game.
Hale had been mired in a 2-for-17 slump before the at bat, and was held out of the starting lineup Saturday because Mainieri thought he was trying to force the issue.
"In my slump, I was trying to pull the ball too much and tonight I was just trying to go up the middle or to the right side,” Hale said. "That’s what I did.”
With Kade Scivicque at second base, Hale drove the ball back up the middle of the diamond to tie the game. When the throw went to the plate, he advanced to second base.
The next batter, Chris Sciambra, drove a single through the right side of the infield and Hale wheeled around to score the go-ahead run.
"Not only did [Hale] get a big hit, he got a good jump at second base when Sciambra got his base hit and he was able to score,” Mainieri said.
The Tigers added one more in the last of the eighth, when McMullen plated Bregman with a booming double that rolled to the left field corner. Bregman scored from first on the play.
"I know Sean has a lot of opposite field power, that’s one of his strengths,” Bregman said. "We always see him crush balls to left-center and down the left field line. When it left his bat, I knew it had a chance to get over his head, so I just kept going. It landed. It was a great swing by Sean.”
Junior starter Kyle Bouman did not factor in the decision, but had another solid outing as he makes a bid for a permanent home in the weekend rotation.
The Boilermakers put a run on the scoreboard in both the third and fourth innings, both coming on the heels of an extra base hit. Leadoff man Cody Strong ripped a two-out double just past a diving Andrew Stevenson in left-center field to open up the scoring, and Conner Hudnall was credited with a double when Mark Laird could not quite come up with a sliding catch in the fourth.
Outside of that, Bouman was his usual self. He needed only 78 pitches to work 6.2 innings, did not walk a batter and kept LSU in the ball game.
"Whether we’re up 15 or not, my job is the same,” Bouman said. "… I don’t focus too much on our offense and trying to match them. You’ve just got to go out there and try to get some outs.”
Nate Fury (1-0) got the win in relief for striking out No. 9 hitter Brandon Krieg on a full-count pitch with two runners on. It was the only batter he faced. Joe Broussard pitched a perfect ninth to record his second save this season.
A night after his team turned in arguably its most complete performance of the season, Mainieri figured he was in for a bit of a fight on Saturday.
"It’s typical,” Mainieri said. "One day you play great the next day you don’t play as great because they’re young kids and no matter how much you tell them, every game is a new game, it’s 0-0 when the game starts. There’s a natural let down when you have to turn around so quickly.”
The Tigers return to the field tomorrow to go for the sweep at 1 p.m. If you’re planning on going to the game, remember that it’s daylight saving time. Set your clocks AHEAD one hour.