Posted at 11:23 pm on March 17, 2017

LSU hits its way out of an early hole, routs Georgia 22-9 in record-setting offensive onslaught

Antoine Duplantis (Jonathan Mailhes)
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By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor

LSU spotted Georgia a healthy lead before mashing its way to a record-setting 22-9 rout in the Southeastern Conference opener at Alex Box Stadium Friday night.

Every Tiger in the starting lineup drove in and scored at least one run apiece as part of a 22-hit barrage. LSU scored multiple runs in six different innings and only failed to score in one run. Thorough and balanced as the onslaught was, the top third of the lineup still did the heavy lifting.

“We were just relentless from the bottom of the first through the bottom of the eighth,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We just kept having great at-bat after great at-bat after great at-bat, and every time they scored, we answered them.”

Antoine Duplantis set a school record with six hits and a new career high with seven RBI. Leadoff man Kramer Robertson went 5-for-5, reached base safely in all seven of his plate appearances and scored five runs. Together they finished a perfect 11-for-11 with eight RBI and nine runs scored.

Robertson duplicated the five-hit mark set on 32 previous occasions before Friday night in the eighth inning. Two batters later Duplantis, who said he’d never gotten more than four hits in a game at any part of his baseball life, doubled down the right field line to bring home two more runs. He received a standing ovation from the fans who’d stayed till the end of the nearly four-and-a-half hour scoring bonanza.

“I told him ‘Man, you let me tie the record and be a part of history for about three minutes before you break it,” Robertson smiled. “Good for him. That was awesome. Those are really once-in-a-career type night.”

Duplantis had his own piece of LSU history. The veteran shortstop made sure he got something else to remember the night by — a shaving cream pie while describing his record-breaking nights to a gaggle of reporters.

“That didn’t feel as good as getting the sixth hit,” Duplantis deadpanned, wiping shaving cream out of his eyes, nose and mouth.

For a while it appeared LSU would need all of them.

Alex Lange just didn’t have it on a night when a handful of the SEC’s elite saw their aces get rocked. He lasted just 4.1 innings and departing having allowed a career-high eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and four walks.

The previously struggling Georgia lineup jumped all over Lange in the first inning. The right hander issued a leadoff walk, allowed an RBI double on a ball misplayed by Zach Watson in center field and then issued another walk. Two batters later, Will Campbell belted a three-run home run to left.

That lead evaporated in a hurry.

LSU halved the deficit in the bottom of the inning. Robertson led off with a double and scored on an infield single from Duplantis. LSU went on to load the bases and Josh Smith battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a run-scoring walk.

The Tigers took the lead one inning later.

Cole Freeman cranked a hanging curveball down the line for a RBI double. Duplantis followed with his second RBI infield single in as many innings and Greg Deichmann put LSU ahead with a sacrifice fly to deep left field. Watson extended the lead with a two-out double to the gap in left center field.

Georgia inched a run closer in the third, but Lange fanned three consecutive hitters to quell the rally and LSU extended its lead.

Freeman brought home a run with a ground ball and Duplantis drove Robertson home for the third time with his third RBI single in three innings. Then, in the fourth, Robertson slashed a two-out RBI single thorough the right side to put the Tigers ahead 9-5 for the time being.

The Bulldogs stormed back with three runs to chase Lange with one out in the fifth.

“They were just on him,” Mainieri said. “And then he started falling behind counts. We’ll have to go back and kind of … I’m sure (Alan Dunn) will be up all night studying the video and trying to figure out what went wrong with Alex’s start. But just like the bad start in Texas, he’ll bounce back. I’ve never had an athlete that’s more mentally tough and can be counted on than Alex Lange.”

Austin Bain came on and wiggled out of trouble to keep LSU’s narrow one-run advantage intact. He allowed just one run in 2.2 innings to pick up the victory in relief.

Undeterred, LSU came back with four runs of its own in the bottom of the inning. Deichmann and Watson contributed RBI doubles, Smith lifted a sacrifice fly to right field and Beau Jordan delivered a two-out RBI single to right field.

The Tigers batted around in a seven-run sixth inning to completely break the game open. It allowed Robertson and Duplantis to each accomplish the odd distinction of having reached base safely sixth time in as many innings.

Game two of the series is set for 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Jared Poche’ will put his 29-inning scoreless streak on the line for LSU, meaning perhaps tomorrow’s final may look more like a baseball score than a September football game.

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