By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Alex Lange’s career ledger remained unblemished thanks to the rescilent effort of his less-heralded teammates.
Handed an early 3-0 lead, Lange allowed a career-high six runs (five earned) and was on the hook for his first loss since high school with Tigers trailed 7-3 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
That’s when a lineup that’d struggled to get the big hit all night strung together some two-out magic. LSU (9-2) batted around and scored seven times in the seventh inning to rally past Fordham (3-6), 10-7, to complete sweeps of both Saturday’s double-header and the weekend series at Alex Box Stadium.
“I told these guys that Lange has carried every team his whole life, and he needs our help tonight,” Beau Jordan said of the impromptu huddle he called in the dugout before going to bat. “So if you don’t want to get up and do it, let somebody else hit. I think I challenged them — or we challenged ourselves — to not waste an at-bat.”
Greg Deichmann cut the deficit to three with an opposite field RBI double. Cole Freeman singled and O’Neal Lochridge walked, setting the stage for Kramer Robertson to turn on a fist-pitch fastball and tie the game with a bases-clearing double down the left field line.
“That’s the kind of situation you want to be put in,” Robertson said. “Come through for your team. I was fortunate to get a good pitch to hit and come through for us.”
Jake Fraley gave LSU the lead with an RBI infield single that Fordham shortstop Joseph DeVito couldn’t come up with. Antoine Duplantis follwed with an RBI triple to deep right-center field and Jordan, who led off the rally with a standup double, plated with with a sharp single to right.
“That was as great a rally as you’d ever seen with two outs,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Our first two outs were balls that we crushed, and you start to think the luck is against us now late in the game. But, oh my goodness, one great at-bat after the other.
“Things looked bleak there for a while but the kids didn’t hang their heads. They kept competing. It just shows what we’re capable of.”
Up to that seventh inning, the nightcap of Saturday’s double header felt eerily similar to LSU’s other two losses this season: a series of missed opportunities to extend a lead before eventually letting it get away.
LSU opened up the scoring early. Fraley singled in the first and stole two bases before scoring on an RBI double off the bat of Duplantis. The rookie right fielder scored one batter later on a RBI single from Jordan.
Catcher Mike Papierski led off the second with a ringing double and came around to score on a sacrifice fly from Cole Freeman. And given the way Lange cruised through the first six men he faced with relative ease, the 3-0 lead felt like a mountain for the Rams to climb.
Free passes and some timely two-out hits made the unlikely comeback a reality. Lange battled his command from the third inning on. A leadoff single, two walks and a wild pitch got Fordham on the board in the third.
Lange got into trouble again by falling behind hitters in the fifth inning. Left fielder Ryan McNally tied the game on a two-out, two-run single up the middle on a first-pitch curveball. Two batters later, right fielder Mark Donadio sent a 1-0 offering back through the box to put the Rams ahead 4-3.
“I just got ahead of myself on the mound,” Lange said. “Working from behind, when you work from behind you get hurt. That’s the bottom line. Got to get better at that.”
Fordham chased Lange with two more two-out runs in the sixth. No. 9 hitter Jason Lundy lined a 3-1 fastball to right field for an RBI single to make it 5-3. Then LSU third baseman Trey Dawson fielded a Joseph Runco chopper and fired it into right field to plate an additional unearned run.
“Alex has been a great pitcher for us, but he walked a couple guys and fell behind on some counts,” Mainieri said. “He knows that you can’t do that. I don’t care how good your stuff is, in college baseball, if you fall behind on hitters they’re going to hit you and if you walk guys it’s going to hurt you.”
Once again, the only effective relief to come out of the LSU bullpen came from Caleb Gilbert. He entered and escaped a bases loaded jam in the seventh and put up zeroes in the eighth and ninth innings to earn the victory.
“I keep bringing this kid into impossible situations, and he keeps getting us out of it,” Mainieri said. “He’s tremendous. I’d just like to get the kid a normal save opportunity one time.”
LSU will be back in action with two midweek games next week.
– Mainieri said Bryce Jordan will undergo an X-Ray on his ankle after being a late scratch from the lineup Saturday night. He collided with a photographer in game one and tried to go through warm-ups only to be replaced by Jordan Romero.
– Antoine Duplantis extended his hitting streak to 11 games.