By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
HOOVER, Ala. — LSU’s offensive heater officially reached Gorilla Ball levels as the nation’s hottest lineup mashed its way into the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship Game.
Greg Deichmann homered twice and Kramer Robertson came just a double shy of hitting for the cycle to lead the assault. LSU pounded out 14 hits and mercy ruled South Carolina, 11-0, on a steamy Saturday afternoon at the Hoover Met.
“The game went about as well as you could’ve hoped for,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “You knew South Carolina was playing their fifth game in five days, and certainly that takes a toll on your pitching, but I still credit our hitters for getting the job done … We just didn’t stop hitting.”
The Tigers advance to take on Arkansas for the SEC Tournament crown at 2 p.m. Sunday. The Hogs come into the finals equally hot having mercy ruled Florida 16-0 in the late game Saturday. Now 42-17 and No. 7 in the RPI before Saturday’s demolition, LSU almost certainly has sown up a sixth consecutive national seed regardless of what happens.
LSU has now scored 10+ runs in five consecutive SEC games for the first time since 2000. The Tigers have two mercy-rule victories in a single SEC Tournament for the first time since 2014 and have done it in back-to-back games for the first time since 2001.
LSU has outscored its opponents 31-3 so far in Hoover. The Tigers are now 30-6 under Mainieri in the SEC Tournament dating back to 2008 having outscored opponents 230-97 during that span.
“It’s definitely a great experience for these kids going to bed tonight knowing they’re going to wake up tomorrow and play for a championship,” the coach said. “That never gets old.”
Jared Poche’ cruised through six shutout innings to pick up career victory No. 37, one shy of tying Scott Schultz for the most in program history. The lefty took sole possession of second place on that list and tied the all-time record for wins at the SEC Tournament with three.
Few of the 36 previous wins came so effortlessly. He allowed just two hits, walked two and pitched around four uncharacteristic errors from his ultra-reliable defense to keep the shutout in tact.
“I definitely love runs,” Poche’ deadpanned. “If they could score in under 10 minutes, that’d be ideal. But the story of the day is the offense. They swung the bats and they’ve been doing it for the last week and making life easier on us pitchers. You know they’re scoring first and I had the lead before I even went out there.”
The Tigers teed off on a worn-out pitching staff while many of the purple and gold faithful were still polishing off one final adult beverage outside of the Hoover Met.
Robertson clobbered Gamecock right-hander Colby Lee’s third pitch of the game for a long leadoff home run to left, his eight of the season and second in as many at-bats.
Cole Freeman worked a walk, and two batters later Deichmann connected on a two-run blast, his 18th of the season, just to the right of dead center field. Center fielder TJ Hopkins did everything he could to try to bring it back, but the ball caromed just off the edge of his outstretched glove.
Freeman stopped between first and second base, as it appeared Hopkins had reached over the wall and managed come down with the ball. Deichmann professed that he probably would’ve ran past him, which would’ve resulted in him being called out, had Freeman not alertly yelled at him to stop.
“I saw him go up to the wall and he didn’t really react either way,” Deichmann said. “I saw Cole out of the corner of my eye and had to be careful not to pass him up in case he caught it. Like I said, it was just a weird play. I wasn’t sure until he showed his glove and there was no ball.”
LSU chased Lee and tacked on two more runs in the second inning. Freeman greeted new pitcher John Parke by lining his first pitch to right for an RBI single. Antoine Duplantis singled off his next pitch, moving Freeman to third, and Freeman scored when his third pitch went to the backstop.
Poche’ worked around an error in the bottom of the second to strand a pair of runners. LSU promptly batted around to remove any semblance of doubt from the outcome.
Mike Papierski rolled an RBI single through the left side and Zach Watson followed with a two-run triple to left field. Robertson then went the other way for an RBI triple of his own. Duplantis brought him home with a sacrifice fly.
This emptied the bases for Deichmann, who unloaded on his second home run of the afternoon to dead center field. His first multi-homer game of the season capped a six-run third inning.
“Today we were on fums just a bit,” South Carolina coach Chad Holbrook said. “They ambushed our pitchers there. They’re a tremendous team. They have a chance to be one of, if not the last team standing. And I don’t just mean here in Hoover.”
South Carolina mounted a brief threat to get back into the game in the fourth, loaded the bases against Poche’ with two outs. The crafty lefty uncorked a wild pitch to the screen, but Papierski quickly gathered it and flipped to Poche’ to nail the runner at the plate and end the inning.
“That’s exactly how we drew it up before the game,” Poche’ grinned. “We executed it perfectly.”
Be the first to comment