By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Alex Lange hadn’t had a lead to protect since St. Patrick’s Day. In fact, LSU hadn’t mustered a single run of support with Lange in the game over his past three starts since that wild blowout of Georgia on March 17.
The bats did their best to make up for some lost time Thursday night.
The Tigers banged out 15 hits and scored in each of the first seven innings to drub visiting Ole Miss 15-2 and take the opener at Alex Box Stadium in blowout fashion. Lange fired seven shutout innings of three-hit ball with seven strikeouts to cruise to his first victory since March 10.
“Obviously the score indicates it, but regardless of what the score said, I thought that was really a total effort by our team in every facet,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “That’s as good as you can play right there.”
Antoine Duplantis emphatically broke out of a 0-for-14 slump to lead the offensive onslaught. Batting ninth, the sweet-swinging sophomore went 4-for-4 with four RBI. Greg Deichmann belted a grand slam in the sixth en route to a career-high five RBI.
“I felt comfortable today,” Duplantis said. “I saw the ball really, really well. That’s the most important part. A couple of those games at Arkansas, I didn’t really feel comfortable. I didn’t have a plan at the plate. So I’m just going to try to carry over how I feel right now into the next couple of games.”
LSU jumped all over Rebel ace James McArthur thanks to some clutch two-out hitting — setting a tone for the evening in the process. The Tigers hit 9-for-17 (.529) and scored 12 of their 15 runs with two outs.
Kramer Robertson led off the game with a single to right and came home on Jordan Romero’s single through the left side. Mike Papierski drew a two-out walk in the second and scored all the way from first base on a double in the gap by Duplantis. It took an aggressive send from Nolan Cain at third base and a beautiful slide by Papierski to avoid the tag.
Deichmann led off the third inning with a double to right-center field and stole third base with nobody out. Romero followed with his second RBI single in as many at-bats to extend LSU’s lead to 3-0. Duplantis led off the fourth with a single, and after a successful double steal, scored on a wild pitch.
Meanwhile, it took Lange just 50 pitches to breeze through four perfect innings with three strikeouts. That’s less pitches than it took him to get through two taxing innings in his last start against Arkansas.
“I like it more,” Lange smiled of being handed a lead. “It’s a lot better. It’s a lot more comfortable to go out there and get in a rhythm. It’s a lot more fun to win than it is to lose.”
Tim Rowe singled with one out in the fifth to produce the first baserunner of the evening for Ole Miss. A walk following, placing Lange in his first jam of the game. The junior right hander came back with consecutive strikeouts using his changeup and curveball to escape trouble. Mainieri pulled him after 92 pitches because of the lopsided nature of the game.
The Tigers chased McArthur with successive two-out singles in the bottom of the inning and proceeded to break the game open against the Rebel bullpen. The full nine-man lineup came to the plate in both the fifth and sixth innings as LSU exploded for 10 more runs.
Duplantis smoked a single up the middle — noticing a trend? — to bring home one run. Then, after a hit by pitch to load the bases, Cole Freeman lined a two-run single back through the box. Deichmann followed with an RBI single to right.
McArthur, who entered the game with a pristine 1.85 ERA, hadn’t allowed more than two earned runs in an SEC start this season. The Tigers tagged him for six runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings. The usually electric right hander left without recording a strikeout.
“This was not a slouch pitcher that we did this against,” Mainieri said. “This was a guy whose had a great year and is an excellent pitcher. I just think our guys rose to the occasion. They were outstanding.”
LSU kept piling on after Ole Miss third baseman Kyle Watson made two errors to spark another rally in the sixth. Another walk to Papierski loaded the bases, and Duplantis lined yet another single up the middle, this time bringing home two runs.
Another walk to Robertson reloaded the bases, and after a Freeman popup, Deichmann unloaded on his second career grand slam and 11th home run of the season. Behind 1-2 in the count, he inexplicably got a fastball right down the pipe and didn’t miss it. TrakMan recorded an exit velocity of 111.4 mph and estimated it traveled a whopping 457 feet.
“It hit the tree?” Lange asked incredulously, pointing to the tree beyond the outer wall in right-center field. “That doesn’t shock me. Whatever. He does it all the time so we’re kind of use to that now. It was impressive the first couple times he did it.”
LSU continued to pour it on even as Mainieri emptied his bench in the seventh inning. Consecutive two-out walks set the stage for Beau Jordan, who pinch hit for Duplantis, to chop an RBI double down the third base line.
LSU, winners of its last four games, finds itself at 24-11 overall and 8-5 in the Southeastern Conference. It’ll go for a second consecutive series victory Friday night with Jared Poche’ (6-1, 2.32 ERA) on the mound in a matchup of southpaws against Rebel David Parkinson (4-2, 2.85 ERA).
First pitch is set for 7 p.m. LSU will hold a pregame ceremony to retire former All-American Todd Walker’s No. 12.