LSU baseball’s late rally comes up just short, falls to Tennessee in SEC Championship

LSU baseball's seven-game win streak came to an end in the SEC Championship to No. 1 Tennessee. PHOTO BY: LSU Athletics

LSU baseball’s magical run has finally come to an end.

The Tigers battled with No. 1 Tennessee but just couldn’t get it done as they fell 4-3 in the SEC Championship. LSU attempted another late rally but came up just short of some more SEC Tournament magic. It scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to make it a one-run game, but a pair of strikeouts brought the seven-game win streak to an end.

“Yeah, very proud of our team this week,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “They accomplished a lot. Four wins. You know, in the toughest league and toughest tournament in baseball. You know, congratulations to Tennessee for winning the championship today. They got a great program. Great players. But I think the story is how we played all week long. We had two dominant pitching performances. We had two dominant offensive performances and came up a little bit short.”

Still, the tournament run was enough to propel LSU from a team on the NCAA Tournament bubble to a team in the conversation for a No. 2 seed. The NCAA Selection Show will be on Monday at 11 a.m. and regionals will start May 31.

“We’ll celebrate being in the NCAA Tournament tomorrow when the bracket pops up and then we’ll give them a good itinerary, where we know where we’re going, who we are playing and when we’re leaving and get prepared because that’s the next phase of this,” Johnson said. “This was a good week but this wasn’t the end game for this team.”

Nate Ackenhausen got the start on the mound for LSU and was lights out in the first inning, striking out three batters. Jared Jones got off to a red-hot start for the Tigers too and absolutely clobbered a ball out of the ballpark to give LSU an early 1-0 lead.

Ackenhausen allowed a double in the second inning, but a pair of strikeouts and a pop out ended the frame. He recorded another strikeout and a ground out in the top of the third inning before being pulled for Fidel Ulloa. Ulloa didn’t have nearly as good of a start to the game as Ackenhausen or Jones though.

He allowed a single to Christian Moore and walked Blake Burke to put a pair of runners on base. Then, with two outs gone he allowed a homer to Billy Amick that gave the Vols a 3-1 lead. Christian Little came in to force a groundout and end the inning.

Little found himself in trouble in the fourth inning. He allowed a leadoff single before striking out a pair of batters. But with two outs gone he walked two straight batters to load the bases before being pulled for Sam Dutton. Dutton forced a groundout to get out of the jam.

Dutton was replaced by Thatcher Hurd to start the sixth inning. He struck out a pair or batters and forced a groundout to head to the bottom of the sixth with the score still 3-1.

LSU had a prime opportunity to close the gap in the bottom of the sixth, but a pick off at first base stranded three runners. Three walks put Tommy White, Hayden Travinski and Steven Milam on base, but Milam was thrown out at first thanks to a great heads up play from catcher Cal Stark and first baseman Burke.

Hurd allowed a single and a walk to put runners on base in the seventh inning. With two outs gone, Hunter Ensley singled up the middle to score a run and make it a 4-1 game. Justin Loer came in to finish out the inning and recorded a strikeout. All four of Tennessee’s runs came with two outs gone.

Will Hellmers came in for the eighth inning to send the Vols three up, three down, but LSU’s offense couldn’t get anything going in the bottom of the inning. The Tigers were heading to the ninth inning trailing by three runs and needing another late miracle to claim the SEC championship.

Kade Anderson came in for Hellmers in the top of the ninth and allowed a single but got out of the inning with a groundout and a strikeout. LSU’s offense came up to bat with just three outs keeping its SEC championship hopes alive.

Travinski hit a double with one out gone to give LSU a runner on base. Milam followed that up with a ground-rule double to score Travinski and make it a 4-2 game. Mac Bingham hit a ball that went right past the third baseman and scored another run to make it 4-3 and put the tying run in scoring position.

Ashton Larson struck out swinging to send the Tigers down to their final out and bring Alex Milazzo up to bat. Milazzo struck out swinging and brought LSU’s tournament run to an end.

“I think perspective is important,” Johnson said. “There’s a few things. You’re five wins from the College World Series and you’re ten wins from a National Championship, okay. When you say it in that terms, it feels a little more attainable.”

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Will Nickel

1 Comment

  1. Bottom Line:
    A Tiger pitcher had 2 outs… had batter 0-2 then threw 4 straight balls to walk him… then served homer ball to next guy… 4 STRAIGHT BALLS when up 0-2.
    Rest of early innings was LSU leaving guys on base…
    Nobody thought LSU would be in last 4 teams much less finals so it’s a WIN by any measure…so now to get a regional and win at least 3… this was a rebuilding year.

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