Griffin Herring and a determined LSU team win its first SEC series with 6-2 game 3 win over Missouri

LSU had a lot of heroes on the field in Columbia on Sunday as the Tigers won their SEC Series of the season, but none was any larger than Griffin Herring. Herring threw five innings in relief, held Missouri scoreless and struck out eight. Meanwhile, LSU manufactured runs all game long starting in the fifth inning, several of them with two outs. PHOTO by LSU Athletics

Griffin Herring looked like a man on a mission on Sunday in Columbia.

But he was not alone.

So did Ashton Larson. So did Steven Milam. So did Alex Milazzo. So did Paxton Kling. So did Michael Braswell, Tommy White, Jared Jones, etc. and et al.

For the first time this season, and at a critical time when LSU really needed it, the Tigers beat Missouri, 6-2, to win its first SEC series of the season.

LSU (25-16, 5-13) is now 1-5 in SEC series but, hey, it’s a start and it was much-needed for the defending national champions who are still on the outside looking in the SEC but feeling a lot better about itself heading into a nine-game homestand.

Herring (3-0) got the win for LSU with a masterful pitching effort in relief of starter Nate Ackenhausen.

Herring pitched five innings of one-hit baseball, allowing no runs, striking out eight and walking only one in his longest outing of the season.

Bryce Mayer (1-5) was tagged with the loss. Mayer was the third of four Missouri (18-23, 6-12 SEC) pitchers for the day.

LSU literally manufactured a run in the top of the ninth to go up by four, insurance it didn’t end up needing, but it was exemplary of how the Tigers willed and manufactured runs all game long after falling behind to Missouri, 2-0, when an uncharacteristic fielding error from Milam had everyone thinking this was not going to be LSU’s day.

It turned out to be LSU’s day, after all.

The Tigers return to action at 6:30 p.m. central on Tuesday when they play host to Nicholls in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field. The game will be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and streamed on SEC Network +.

“I’m proud of our team,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said.

“We didn’t get off to a great start, but they stayed with it and played with great competitive character. Griffin’s performance on the back end of the game was outstanding. He’s a team-first player, and in four of our five SEC wins, he did exactly what he did today.

“(LSU catcher) Alex Milazzo also played a great game today behind the plate and with his at-bats; he was not going to let our team lose this game.”

Ackenhausen worked the first four innings, limiting Missouri to two runs on five hits with one walk and five strikeouts.

Milazzo led off the ninth inning with a hard-fought walk. Kling grounded out to the pitcher, but it pushed Milazzo to second. Milazzo made it to third base after Larson grounded out to second base. White then hit a sharp grounder to third and appeared to beat it out, driving in Milazzo. It was ruled a throwing error, but it still put LSU up 6-2. Jones then doubled to left field, putting White on third base. Pearson, however, grounded out to second for the third out but Herring still had a four-run cushion to work with heading into the ninth.

LSU increased its lead to 5-2 in the top of the eighth when Braswell, with two outs, doubled to right center to drive in Pearson from first base. Pearson had singled to right field with one out. Milam grounded out to the pitcher but LSU had once again scored with two outs.

Larson’s two-out home run in the top of the seventh increased LSU’s lead to 4-2. It came on a full-count, and it was Larson’s third home run of the season, all in SEC play, and the freshman’s fifth hit of the series.

Herring walked Hernandez in four-straight pitches to open the bottom of the sixth. Garcia sacrifice-bunted Hernandez to second base and into scoring position. But Herring responded by striking out Curtis looking on a fastball down the middle with the count full and then forcing Corona to ground out to shortstop to head into the seventh inning with LSU up one, 3-2.

White singled to left center to lead off the sixth inning for LSU – his first hit of the game – and Jones followed with his first hit, too, a double deep into the gap in left center. White advanced to third on Jones’ double but then Pearson lined out to first base for the first out. Missouri intentionally walked Travinski, loading the bases with Braswell on deck.  Mayer walked Braswell in five pitches, driving in White and giving LSU a 3-2 lead, its first since Friday’s night’s 12-1 run-rule win.

Milam grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the top of the sixth, leaving three Tigers stranded.

Herring relieved Ackenhausen to start the bottom of the fifth and promptly struck out the side.

LSU tied the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning when Kling scorched a two-run, two-out double to left field that scored Milam and Milazzo.

Milam’s two-out triple off the left field wall in the top of the fifth breathed some much-needed life into LSU’s offense.

Milazzo’s solid and disciplined at bat following Milam’s big hit resulted in a walk off of a full count that allowed Kling, the Tigers’ lead-off hitter, the opportunity to deliver at least a run. Kling did just that. He hit a rifle shot to left field that had to be played off the hop and it turned it a two-run double, his third double of the series. Kling took third on the throw in from the outfield.

A bunt single, wild pitch and a two-run error allowed Missouri to score two runs in the bottom of the third inning. But it could have worse if Ackenhausen had not struck out two of Missouri’s best hitters with two runners on base.

Daniels bunt singled with one out in the bottom of the third then advanced to second when Austin hit a flare to shallow center that Kling had to field on the hop. LSU’s bullpen jumped into action with two runners on. Daniels and Austin each moved up on an Ackenhausen wild pitch. Milam then misjudged an easy grounder by Lovich. Daniels and Austin both scored on Milam’s error and then Hernandez blooped a single to right field and Lovich was able to take third on the play.

Ackenhausen struck out Garcia and Curtis to escape any further damage with Lovich and Hernandez stranded on third and first, respectively.

Lohse struck out Braswell swinging with the count full to start the top of the third inning and Milam lined out to third on the next pitch. With two outs, Milazzo singled up the middle for LSU’s first hit. Kling walked after a long patient at bat to put two on with Larson, a .434 hitter with runners on next up. However, Lohse struck out Larson with a 1-2 fast ball ending LSU’s first scoring threat of the game, his shutout still intact.

Garcia led off the bottom of the second inning for Missouri with a single to left center field on Ackenhausen’s first pitch. Garcia’s single was the first hit of the game for either team. Curtis laid down a perfect bunt and beat Milam to the bag at first giving Mizzou runners at first and second with no outs.

LSU’s infield played in and it worked as Corona hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Culbertson grounded out to White at third base to end the threat.

In the top of the second inning, Lohse hit Pearson with a pitch after Jones flied out to center and then induced Travinski to hit one high into the strong crosswind in left field for the second out. Pearson was caught stealing for the third out when he slid past the bag at second base and was tagged out.

Ackenhausen walked Trevor Austin in the bottom of the first with one out then struck out Lovich in three pitches for his second strikeout. Hernandez grounded out to third base on a full count to end the inning.

In the top of the first, Kling led off by grounding out to the third base. Larson flied out to left field. White flied out to shallow right field. Lohse set LSU down in order on eight pitches.

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Todd Horne

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