Tulane sweeps season series from LSU for first time since 2007
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
NEW ORLEANS — The venue shifted about eighty miles south, but the proceedings, to quote the late, great Yogi Berra, felt like déjà vu all over again.
Tulane starter J.P. France tied the Tiger lineup in knots for 7.1 stellar innings — his longest career outing, and four outs more than he logged in a scoreless win in Baton Rouge last month — and one of LSU’s few rallies ended in a nifty double play courtesy of Wave shortstop Stephen Alemais.
Tulane held off LSU 4-1 to complete its first season sweep of its in-state rival since 2007 in front of a raucous record-setting crowd at Turchin Stadium.
“He threw the ball over the plate and we couldn’t hit him,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s two games in a row that we just couldn’t solve him.”
France scattered six hits and walked just one to earn his first victory of the season. He struck out six, most of which came on his slow-breaking slider.
LSU hitters said the right-hander didn’t deviate at all from the way he attacked while twirling six innings of four-hit ball against the Tigers on March 29.
“We knew exactly what we were getting tonight,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said, “and he still beat us. He was still better than us tonight, and that’s frustrating. So you tip your cap to him.”
Tulane got on the board against starter Doug Norman in the second inning. Jeremy Montalbano worked a nine-pitch leadoff walk — Norman needed just seven in a clean first — and two batters later Hunter Hope laced a double to left field. Hunter Williams then got the run home with a grounder to short.
Noman escaped further trouble by retiring Willsey on another grounder to Robertson to end the inning. He then worked around a two-out walk in the third thanks to a diving stop by Robertson. The first nine outs Norman recorded came on ground balls, and Robertson assisted on five with a pair of put-outs.
Being groomed as a potential fourth starter, Norman left after recording the first two outs of the fourth inning for pitch count concerns.
“I thought Norman did a good job,” Mainieri said. “I was hoping to get him to about 50 pitches — that’s right where he was — so we could have him available for Saturday. I thought he did a good job.”
Caleb Gilbert recorded the final out of the fourth but ran into trouble with two outs in the fifth. Three successive two-out singles extended the lead to 2-0 and sent Mainieri back to the bullpen for Jesse Stallings.
That’s when things got weird. Lex Kaplan tapped one back to right side of the mound, but Stallings’ hard throw to first flew past first baseman Greg Deichmann, who was charged with an error that allowed Grant Witherspoon to score from second.
“It appeared to me that he just missed it,” Mainieri said.
Stallings explained the play from his perspective: “I fielded it, and I mean it was kind of in the base path. It was kind of iffy. I mean, it was there, but, I mean, at the same time, Deichmann just didn’t want to get hit (by the baserunner). I mean that’s part of it. It happens. People make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. It’s going to happen every now and then. I could have made a better throw. It’s just one of those bad luck things.”
It’s the second error Deichmann was charged with in the past three games. He was later pulled for Brody Wofford after striking out to end the seventh inning, which brought his current slump to 1-for-16 with five strikeouts.
France’s personal scoreless streak against the Tigers finally ended at 13.1 innings in the eighth on the strength of a controversial, bases-loaded balk, which forced Bryce Jordan home.
Then, with two runners in scoring position, Tulane lefty reliever Sam Bjorngjeld rebounded from his balk to strike out Jake Fraley on slider tumbling down in away.
Tulane coach David Pierce then made the move to closer Patrick Duester, who fanned Jordan Romero on a hard-breaking pitch of his own. He returned in the ninth to nail down the save.
LSU hits the road Wednesday and will begin a three-game series at Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday.