LSU comes from behind late vs. South Carolina to claim dramatic SEC Tournament win

LSU baseball won a thriller against South Carolina in the third round of the SEC Tournament. PHOTO BY: LSU Athletics

The matchup between LSU and South Carolina had everything a baseball fan could want.

The instant classic featured six lead changes, 21 runs, a grand slam, a four-run comeback and a player hitting the game winning run against his former team.

LSU trailed 5-1 and 10-7 at points, but it battled back each time the Gamecocks took the lead. Trailing by one heading into the ninth inning, the Tigers scored two late runs to claim an 11-10 win and punch its ticket to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament.

“Great baseball game tonight,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “So proud of the team. Really for the last month, every win we’ve had has been the most important win. Tonight was the best win of the season.”

Michael Braswell III hit the game-winning hit against his former team with two outs gone in the ninth inning. The late rally spoiled a six RBI game from South Carolina’s Cole Messina.

“I couldn’t find a moment where I’ve been happier in baseball,” Braswell said. “I have respect for the South Carolina program, but I’m an LSU Tiger, and there’s been a lot of social media things going on in the last days, and to get that hit really kind of gave me satisfaction for a lot of things. It meant the world to me.”

The Tigers took an early lead like they had in each of their last few games during their five-game win streak. Josh Pearson drew a walk to leadoff the second inning and advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt. Steven Milam hit an RBI single to bring him home and establish a 1-0 lead.

But unlike the last few games, this lead wouldn’t last. Thatcher Hurd was given his first SEC start in nearly two month and struck out five batters in the first two innings, but the wheels fell off in the third inning.

Hurd walked the first batter he faced and hit the second with a pitch. He then threw a wild pitch to let the runners advance to third and second. He allowed an RBI double to Ethan Petry to tie the game up. After walking the next batter he faced to load the bases, Hurd was pulled for Nate Ackenhausen.

Ackenhausen had to pitch to Messina, the Gamecocks best hitter. Messina didn’t take long to show why he is the team’s leader in RBI, and he knocked the first pitch he saw out of the park to give South Carolina a 5-1 lead. It was the first time LSU had trailed during since its game three loss to Alabama.

“A lot of things didn’t go well. I think it’s great training ground for where we’re headed in the NCAA Tournament,” Johnson said. “We talked about when we were down 5-1 that in the postseason you get behind if you press, if you panic, the season gets away from you in a hurry, and these guys have not done that the entire season. That was the best example of it tonight.”

The Tigers’ offense showed fight and responded in the next inning though. Two straight doubles from Pearson and Hayden Travinski score one run for LSU. Milam hit an RBI single to score another. Jake Brown blasted a homer of his own over right center field to put the finishing touches on the comeback and tie the game at 5-5.

In the fifth inning, Jared Jones hit a homer for the second straight game to reclaim the lead for the Tigers. The Gamecocks responded in the bottom of the fifth though to knot the game back u at 6-6.

Ackenhausen allowed a walk and a single before being pulled for Christian Little. Little walked another to load the bases and a sac fly evened the score. Little was able to get two straight strikeouts though to head to the sixth.

Alex Milazzo started the sixth with a double and made it to third on a wild pitch. Tommy White grounded out to bring Milazzo home and once again give LSU a one run lead. But once again, it wouldn’t last long.

Little allowed two straight singles to start the bottom of the sixth and hit a batter with a pitch after recording an out to load the bases. Messina again did damage with a two-RBI double this time. Parker Noland hit another two-RBI double to cap off a four-run inning and give South Carolina a 10-7 lead.

The Tigers loaded up the bases with two outs gone in the top of the eighth inning thanks to an error and a pair of walks. Pearson hit a ball that went right through the legs of Gavin Cases and scored a pair of runs to make it a one run game and set the stage for a dramatic ninth inning.

The Tigers got the tying and go ahead runs on base after a pair of singles from Milam and Brown. A fly out advanced the tying run to third base and Brown stole second to put the go-ahead run in scoring position. A deep hit ball from Milazzo let the tying run tag up and tie it at 10-10. Braswell singled down the left field line with two outs gone to score another and give the Tigers an 11-10 lead.

“These two [Ulloa and Braswell] were phenomenal,” Johnson said. “Michael, what a special player and performance tonight. Couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s been one of the best shortstops in the country, especially over the last three or four weeks he’s taken us to a new level since moving him into a lead-off spot.”

Fidel Ulloa let a runner reach base in the bottom of the ninth, but the Tigers got three outs to end the game and hold on to the lead.

LSU will play at noon on Saturday for a spot in the SEC Championship. They’ll either have a rematch with South Carolina or a rematch with Kentucky in that game.

“It’s more than satisfying, but I realize there’s a lot of season left for us. I truly believe that. I’m not going to act like this is the World Series or anything,” Braswell said. “We might play them again or Kentucky on Saturday.”

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Will Nickel

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