Amid the post-game fireworks, Beau Jordan crouched down next to his twin brother and admired the aerial display. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the celebration was somehow planned for him and him alone.
Beau Jordan graduated from LSU with a degree in business early Friday afternoon. Mere hours later, he lit off a powder keg in the form of a jam-packed Alex Box Stadium with a game-winning and potentially season-saving grand slam.
“It was a pretty good day,” Jordan smiled. “It’s breathtaking to come through like that when your team needs you. Words can’t describe it. Today has been a great day, and hopefully tomorrow is just like it.”
For seven-and-a-half innings it was difficult to tell which of the two teams contributing to a comedy of errors occupied last place in the Southeastern Conference, but the truly putrid cream eventually rose to the top. Or sunk to the bottom, rather.
Alabama took a commanding 5-1 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning only to completely melt down. LSU loaded the bases without a hit and emphatically rolled the Tide, scoring six times and taking the lead for good on Jordan’s dramatic grand slam to win the series opener 7-5 on Friday night.
“We couldn’t have played any worse than we were playing,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “You start to think you’re snake bitten for the night, and then, all of the sudden, out of nowhere, here we come.”
It started, like so many comebacks at the Box, with an unforced infield error. That gave life to a listless offense that had squandered and run itself out of rallies all night long, and once things got rolling downhill, there wasn’t much Alabama could do to stop it.
Nick Coomes, another graduate playing in his final SEC home series, came off the bench with a pinch-hit RBI single to keep the merry-go-round going. Brandt Broussard battled back from a 1-2 count to draw a run-scoring walk.
That set the stage for Jordan, who graduated earlier in the day, to come through with the latest in what’s been a season full of big hits. Jordan, who left the bases loaded earlier in the game, jumped ahead 2-0 in the count before chasing a couple low offerings to level it.
He said afterword that he could practically feel Mainieri’s glare from the dugout, unhappy he’d thrown away a walk that would’ve cut the deficit to just a run. Alabama reliever Sam Gardner tried to sneak a fastball by him, and Jordan got just enough of it to carry the wall in left field.
Mainieri and some of his teammates had given Jordan grief that all seven of his previous home runs had been of the solo variety. He picked quite the time to break that streak.
“What a moment for Beau Jordan,” Mainieri said. “To have a moment like that that he’ll never forget. I’m just glad he finally hit something other than a solo home run this year. What a moment for the kid. It couldn’t have happened to a better kid.”
Todd Peterson, again pumping heat, came on and nailed down the save. Austin Bain, also warmed up if he was needed to pitch, helped him out by racing into foul territory and catching a popup that may have otherwise landed in the stands.
The come-from-behind victory erases what would’ve been a costly and deflating loss for an LSU (30-20, 13-12 SEC) club that is fighting for both its NCAA Tournament lives and the SEC West crown. For Alabama (25-26, 6-18 SEC), it’s a game that’s hard to fathom how they let get away.
Alabama jumped ahead on a night when LSU ace Zack Hess clearly had neither his best command nor stuff through the early going.
A fly ball that arguably could’ve been caught in left — Daniel Cabrera had it before hitting the wall — put a second-inning rally in motion and Alabama shortstop Jett Manning followed with a two-run single. Left fielder Keith Holcombe doubled the lead with a single in the third after two hit batsman and a walk.
The game could’ve gotten out of hand, but Hess stranded the bases loaded. Alabama loaded the bases again with no outs in the following inning and Hess buckled down, picking up two strikeouts and a popup to escape the jam unscathed.
“How many times did Alex Lange do that for us in his career here?” Mainieri said. “(Hess) did the same thing tonight. It was a struggle. We could’ve had such a deficit that it would’ve been impossible to come back from. That’s what those guys do who are great winners and competitors.”
He retired the final six men he faced before handing the game over to the bullpen. Four runs in five innings qualifies as limiting the damage considering Hess scattered six hits, four walks and a pair of hit batsman.
“I didn’t have anything, but I just kind of had to find a way there,” Hess said. “The goal of a starting pitcher is to keep your team in the game and go as long as you can … I didn’t have my fastball. Nothing was really working for me. The sharpness just wasn’t really there.”
LSU, meanwhile, squandered opportunities to get right back in the game, even when Alabama made the kind of mistakes that earmark a last-place team. The Tide committed three errors on the night.
A dropped can-of-corn gave LSU a leadoff baserunner in the third inning. Cabrera plated the free runner with a booming RBI double to center field. LSU appeared to be in for a big inning when Manning booted a ground ball with two outs, but Cabrera made an ill-advised break for the plate and was thrown out.
LSU ran itself out of another rally in the fourth. Brandt Broussard smashed a ground ball to third with runners on the corners and nobody out. Jake Slaughter took off for home when the ball was thrown to second base, and he was easily gunned down at the plate to complete the rare 5-4-2 double play.
Hess and reliever Devin Fontenot retired 12 in a row to give LSU a chance to rally back, but Alabama added an insurance run against Fontenot in the eighth. Joe Trousdale led off with a double and Manning blooped a single into shallow left field for his third RBI of the night.
“We were outplayed for a long time tonight, but that’s why you play all 27 outs,” Mainieri said. “You can’t run out the clock in baseball.”
LSU will try to win the series on Saturday night with Ma’Khail Hilliard (8-3, 3.10 ERA) going against Jake Walters (2-5, 4.57 ERA) in a battle of right handers. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.
“We kind of coasted for a while,” Jordan said. “That can’t happen tomorrow.”