LSU’s struggles to hit the parade of soft-tossing lefties it saw during the pre-conference slate were never going to just correct themselves once the degree of difficulty ratcheted up.
Facing a southpaw with real swing-and-miss stuff only compounded the issue.
Michael Plassmeyer struck out eight over seven dominant innings of four-hit ball in what had the early makings of a pitcher’s duel. LSU fell apart at the seams in the eighth inning and Missouri rolled to a 12-6 win behind Plassmeyer at Alex Box Stadium on Friday night.
At no point in the game did LSU seem remotely close to solving the lefty. He struck out six of the first eight men to come to the plate against him and remained in complete control once a two-run homer in the fifth gave him a lead to protect.
“Obviously the eight inning turned into a disaster,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It was a great ballgame up to that point. Obviously the first thing I’ve got to do is give credit to their left-hander. We faced him two years ago, and we kind of had our way with him. He’s made a lot of improvements. He was throwing a lot harder and his slider was nasty.”
The rout earned Missouri its first win against LSU after dropping the previous 13 meetings and means this inaugural Southeastern Conference series will be determined by a rubber match Sunday. First pitch is set for 2 p.m., weather permitting. LSU (13-7, 1-1 SEC) will start freshman Ma’Khail Hilliard while Missouri (15-4, 1-1 SEC) will counter with senior Andy Toelken.
Missouri had all of the scoring chances early, putting at least one runner in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings, but LSU right-hander Caleb Gilbert kept wiggling off the hook despite not having his best stuff.
LSU scratched out a run against Plassmeyer to take the lead in the fourth. Antoine Duplantis led off with a single, and after a walk and a bunt, Beau then lifted a sacrifice fly to right. That’s the kind of productive out that had alluded LSU on Friday night.
That lead didn’t last long as Missouri finally made Gilbert pay for the cavalcade of runners he’d put on base. Catcher Brent Bond tagged Gilbert for a two-out, two-run home run to right that chased Gilbert from the game. He scattered seven hits and a walk over 4.2 innings.
LSU didn’t manage another baserunner until the seventh inning, when Beau Jordan reached on an infield single. He was quickly erased on a double play when his brother Bryce lined out to third base.
“He was filling up the zone big time and hitting his spots really well,” Beau Jordan said. “He was mixing it up. It’s hard to recognize his pitches. He did a really good job of keeping us off balance.”
One run already felt like a tall mountain to climb given the way Plassmeyer was dealing, and Missouri batted around in the eight inning to break the game wide open.
Six walks, a hit batsman, two ground balls that could’ve — maybe even should’ve — been outs, an error and a costly pass ball added up as the visiting Tigers scoring eight times. LSU used six different relievers before the inning mercifully came to an end.
“You’re just hoping somebody will come in and throw the ball over the plate,” Mainieri said. “We just couldn’t get that to happen, so we’re going to have tot ake it like men and put it behind us. We’ve got a chance to win the series tomorrow and we’ve got to be ready to do that.”
“Baseball is hard enough as it is,” Beau Jordan added. “We’ve just got to be better.”
LSU made the final score a bit more respectable thanks to a pair of solo home runs in the eighth from Jake Slaughter and Zach Watson. Slaughters, a pinch hit blast, came off Plassmeyer after Missouri curiously let him return to the game despite sitting in the dugout through a 48-minute inning.
Missouri came back with two runs of its own, re-extending the lead, but LSU scored three times in the ninth. It didn’t mean anything for the result, obviously, but demonstrated a bit of fight if you’re of the belief that that kind of thing can carry over into Sunday.
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