First SEC foe to sweep a double header at the Box since 1989
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Still stinging from being shut out for the first time in nearly three calendar years, LSU pounded out 13 hits in the nightcap of Saturday’s double header with Alabama.
It wouldn’t be enough to avoid getting swept in a double header at Alex Box Stadium for the first time since 1989.
LSU left 11 runners on base, had three more thrown out due to mental mistakes on the base paths and committed a pair of errors as Alabama (13-5, 2-0 SEC) held off a feverish ninth inning rally to beat the Tigers (13-5, 0-2 SEC), 4-2, to complete a sweep of the double header and secure a series victory on the opening weekend of league play.
“These are things that, some of them are errors of aggressiveness, sometimes they’re errors of not thinking,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Just having the poise to do the right thing in the moment. But they’re young kids, they’re learning and sometimes this is how it happens. You have to make mistakes in order to get better sometimes. Today was a tough day for us, obviously, it was tough conditions.”
Stymied by unseasonably blustery conditions and the SEC’s stingiest pitching staff for 17 innings, LSU mounted a late comeback bid with a pair of runs in the ninth, but catcher Mike Papierski popped out to third in foul territory to strand the tying run in scoring position.
“Tomorrow’s not going to be any different, so just have to deal with it,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said of the conditions. “They don’t put asterisks next to games played in tough conditions. They all count the same. So we’re going to come out here tomorrow and try to be more fundamentally sound and execute our offense better.”
Jordan Romero’s pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth got LSU on the board and broke a 0-for-12 skid with runners in scoring position on the day. To that point, Tigers hitters had gone a woeful 1-for-22 with runners on base dating back to the early contest.
The Tigers actually outhit the Tide, 13-7, in the nightcap, but continued to be unable to get runners home once they reached base. LSU put the leadoff man on base in each of the first five innings without plating a single run in support of starter Jared Poche’.
“The biggest difference in the game was we didn’t execute our offense,” Robertson said. “We got guys on base, a lot of leadoff guys on base, and we didn’t get one guy to third base with less than two outs, and we’ve got to do a better job of executing and taking the pressure off the hitters.”
LSU fell behind in the fourth inning by virtue of some self-inflicted wounds.
A Robertson error at short and two plunked batters on the part of Poche’ loaded the bases with one out. Cobie Vance singled through the left side to score the game’s first run and Chance Vincent followed with a run-scoring grounder to make it 2-0 on a pair of unearned runs.
“When you give three free passes in one inning against a good SEC team, it’s hard to wiggle out of those things,” Mainieri said.
The Tide tacked on another run against Poche’ in the fifth. Catcher Will Haynie, who broke a scoreless tie in game one with a two-run double off Alex Lange, belted a 1-0 fastball through the howling wind for a solo shot to left. The towering drive left the bat at 107.3 mph and traveled an estimated 407 feet, according to TrackMan.
Poche’ left after allowing three runs (one earned) through five-plus innings. The junior was charged with the hard-luck loss, his second defeat in as many outings.
Mainieri quickly led the players back to the clubhouse for their team meeting after the final out on a chilly evening. His message, players said, was twofold. First, he pointed out what a long season the team still has ahead of it.
“Obviously that’s not how you wanted to start, but we’ve got 28 more of these,” Robertson said before placing an onus on himself as a veteran to impart that fact on his younger teammaes. “If we keep our heads down, it’s not going to get any easier.”
There was a second part to Mainieri’s message: now that it’s done, use the mistakes as a learning experience moving forward.
“You don’t have a choice after it’s all over,” Mainieri said. “We’re not trying to learn things, we’re trying to win games. And we didn’t win these two games today. Now that it’s said and done, you can choose to pout, feel sorry for yourself or lose your confidence, or you can learn from the day and come back tomorrow with confidence and enthusiasm and go out there and let it rip again. I think our kids will choose to do the latter. You can always learn, but we’re not trying to learn. We’re trying to win. And sometimes making those mistakes can prevent you from winning.”
The Tide secured their first series win in Baton Rouge since 1996 and will go for their first sweep in TigerTown since 1977 on Sunday at 1 p.m. LSU will send John Valek III to the mound in hopes of salvaging the weekend series.