Acker wins battle with Labas, no-hits LSU

Jonathan Mailhes

Both Oklahoma’s Dane Acker and LSU’s AJ Labas were locked into dueling no-hitters after seven innings.

Labas blinked first on the first pitch of the eighth inning when he gave up a solo homer to catcher Justin Mitchell.

Acker held on and threw the first nine-inning no-hitter against LSU in Tigers’ history in a 1-0 Oklahoma win in the Sunday finale of the Shriners Hospital for Children Classic in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.

The right-handed junior college transfer, making just his third start for the Sooners, retired 15 straight LSU batters with Tigers’ catcher Alex Milazzo grounding out to end the game. Ackers, evening his record at 1-1, threw 76 strikes in his 117 pitches, striking out 11 and issuing just one walk.

“I was really attacking the zone all day,” Acker said in a postgame TV interview. “I know they (LSU) are a great team and you can’t back away from these guys or they’re going to punish you. I tried to work it in and out and keep them off-balance all day.”

It seemed for the most part the Tigers’ hitters were clueless for the entire weekend as LSU beat No. 11 Texas 4-3 Friday night, lost to Baylor 6-4 Saturday after blowing a 4-0 lead and then got blanked by Oklahoma.

LSU batted a collective .238 in the three games against the Longhorns, Bears and Sooners, striking out 34 times. The Tigers’ 1-2-3 hitters at the top of the lineup went 3 for 30.

The ice-cold bats wasted some solid pitching performances from LSU starters Cole Henry (vs. Texas), Landon Marceaux (vs. Baylor) and AJ Labas (vs. Oklahoma). That trio had a combined ERA of 2.25 while striking out 23 and walking four.

Labas, a redshirt sophomore who sat out all of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, struck out seven Sooners and walked no batters in eight innings of almost flawless pitching . Making his third start, he lowered his ERA to 2.83 and improved his season strikeouts/walks ratio to 17 to 2 in 19 1/3 innings.

“AJ was great today, he threw a lot of strikes,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Unfortunately, they got the bat on one pitch that left the ball park.”

Despite being no-hit, LSU had several chances to take the lead, especially in the fourth and fifth innings when the Tigers’ leadoff hitter reached base.

Milazzo reached on a fielding error from Oklahoma shortstop Brandon Zaragoza, but was erased on an fourth inning-ending double play.

Then in the fifth, Tigers’ first baseman Cade Beloso was hit by a pitch and advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch.

But right when it seemed like LSU was getting Acker to crack, he struck out Cade Doughty, Giovanni DiGiacomo, and CJ Willis in order to squelch the rally.

As it turned out, Beloso was the last LSU player to reach base.

Down to their final three outs in the ninth, the Tigers brought the 9-1-2 batters to the plate, pinch hitting Wes Toups for shortstop and 9-hole hitter Collier Cranford.

Toups struck out looking, third baseman and leadoff hitter Zack Mathis flied out to right center, and Milazzo hit a ground ball to end the game.

“We hit a lot of balls hard, but it was one of those days with the roof closed here, the ball didn’t carry very well,” Mainieri said. “We hit several balls right at their fielders as well, but congratulations to their pitcher for his outing.”

LSU returns home for five straight games this week in Alex Box Stadium. The Tigers host Southeastern Louisiana and Grambling on Tuesday and Wednesday night respectively before playing UMass-Lowell in a three-game set starting Friday night.

The SLU and Grambling games start at 6:30 and will be broadcast online on SEC Network+.

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