The good news is LSU coach Paul Mainieri was correct in his assessment that Nick Bush, if given the opportunity, could make for a quality Sunday starter.
The bad news is Mainieri was also right about his original apprehension about what his bullpen would look like if he removed the veteran setup made from it and made him a starting pitcher.
Both truths were on vivid display on Sunday afternoon in Columbia.
Bush fired five scoreless innings in the longest start of his career and Daniel Cabrera hit a three-run home run as LSU raced out to a 6-0 lead. Three LSU relievers turned that six-run advantage into a tie game in a matter of four outs and South Carolina prevailed 8-6 to complete a resounding sweep at Founders Park.
The game remained tied going into the eighth inning before South Carolina got to LSU closer Austin Bain for two runs. LT Tolbert put South Carolina ahead for good with a two-run single set up in part by an error charged to second baseman Brandt Broussard.
LSU didn’t go quietly in the ninth. Hunter Feduccia led off with a walk and Nick Webre singled through the right side, but the latter was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Sawyer Bridges came on for the Gamecocks and nailed down the final two outs.
This loss, which probably stings more than the two lopsided ones that preceded it, caps of a disastrous 0-4 road trip for LSU (24-17, 9-9 Southeastern Conference) that reversed any momentum gained from last weekend’s sweep of Tennessee.
On the bright side, the Tigers remain just one game behind Ole Miss and Arkansas for first place in the SEC West with series coming against both in the next two weeks. That fact also serves to underscore the kind of opportunity LSU squandered by being unable to salvage the weekend.
Bush got the spot start and was brilliant for five shutout innings. He pitched around some early traffic on the base paths to keep LSU from falling into another early hole, allowing only three hits in his five innings of work while striking out five and not issuing a walk.
LSU took the lead for the first time all weekend in the third inning when Cabrera crushed an opposite field three-run home run off Gamecock right-hander Chad Morris. He later posted an RBI double off Morris as LSU scored three more times in the fifth to double their advantage.
South Carolina (22-18, 8-10 SEC) stormed back into the game as soon as LSU coach Paul Mainieri lifted Bush from the game. Devin Fontenot and Matt Beck yielded four runs and South Carolina had the tying runs in scoring position before Beck managed to escape with LSU still clinging to a 6-4 lead.
The Gamecocks pulled even one inning later. Beck was pulled in favor of lefty Taylor Petersen after issuing a one-out walk and Petersen promptly served up a two-run homer to Justin Row that made it a whole new ballgame.
LSU returns home to regroup before hosting Lamar at Alex Box Stadium on Tuesday. First pitch is set for 6:30 p.m.