By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
BEAUMONT, Texas — It was supposed to be LSU’s deep, experienced pitching staff that bootstrapped a young lineup as it broke in eight new starters.
But on a night when the Tigers pounded out 11 runs on 12 hits and got strong play from its new-look left side of the infield, an age-old baseball proverb proved poignant.
You can’t catch a walk.
LSU pitching issued eight walks, hit four batters and committed a throwing error as the Tigers coughed up leads of 8-0 and 11-10 to a Lamar club that refused to go away, ultimately falling to the unbeaten Cardinals (5-0), 12-11, in front of a raucous capacity crowd of 3,564 at Vincent-Beck Stadium on a blustery Wednesday night.
“We simply walked and hit too many batters, and that’s just something we’re going to need to tighten up,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “You give them that many free base runners, it’s going to come back to bite you.
“We just didn’t get the job done when we needed to, and consequently they won.”
Through two innings the game felt destined for a laugher.
Aided by wildness on the part of the Lamar staff and a misplayed fly ball in right, LSU (3-1) scored eight runs on six hits in the second inning. Freshman third baseman O’Neal Lochridge delivered the big blow with a wind-aided three-run blast that barely crept over the 380-foot sign in deep center field.
However, the Tigers’ wouldn’t score again for the next four innings as Lamar reliever Brett Brown entered the game and kept LSU off balance by pitching backward with his breaking ball.
“That’s the sign of a young team, I think,” Mainieri said of the offensive inconsistencies. “We scored 11 runs but the only ones I can think of are the run we left at third base in the second inning and the run we left at third base in the eighth. When you’re on the road in a tough environment against a tough team, you’ve got to get everything you can get.”
Handed a big lead early, sophomore right-hander Austin Bain battled his command throughout his 2016 debut. He lasted only four innings, allowing three runs — two on a long home run by Brandyn Arredondo — on three hits and three walks.
He gave way to Riley Smith before the fifth inning, who proceeded to pour gasoline on the fire. The Cardinals tagged the hard-throwing reliever for seven earned runs in 1.2 innings as the Cardinals turned an 8-3 deficit into a 10-8 lead.
“It’s one of the cardinal rules of baseball,” Mainieri began. “You have to throw the ball over the plate with the lead.”
Still, having surrendered an eight-run lead, the LSU bats battled back in the top of the seventh.
Bryce Jordan broke Brown’s string of nine consecutive men retired with a single. Catcher Mike Papierski followed with a double to right and first baseman Greg Deichmann tied the game with a two-run single into center field. Two batters later shortstop Cole Freeman put LSU ahead, 11-10, with a two-out RBI single to right field.
Staying with the theme of the game, the advantage wouldn’t last long. After working out of a bases loaded jam in the seventh — all three runners reach via hit by pitch — closer Parker Bugg issued back-to-back walks followed by a single to load the bases in the eighth.
This forced Mainieri to go back to his shorthanded bullpen for true freshman Caleb Gilbert. The rookie struck out the first two men he faced on devastating breaking balls, but ahead on the count 0-2 to Robin Adames, Gilbert’s hook stayed high and the big infielder lashed into left field to plate the tying and go-ahead runs.
“He was one pitch from getting out of the inning,” Mainieri said. “It doesn’t surprise me how well he threw. What surprised me is the other guys not throwing with command, because they’re pitchers we’ve been able to count on in the past. It just didn’t work out tonight.”
This is the second consecutive season that LSU dropped it’s first midweek contest of the season. The Tigers will be back in action this weekend against Sacramento State.