LSU fails to win an SEC baseball series sweep when it blows an 8-run eighth inning lead at Ole Miss

Ole Miss celebrates freshman Kemp Alderman's solo walk-off homer in the ninth inning for a 10-9 victory over LSU Saturday afternoon in Oxford. The Tigers led 9-1 through 8 1/2 innings in the series finale.

Even on a weekend when LSU won an SEC baseball series, the fashion in which it choked away its chance of a sweep at No. 10 Ole Miss Saturday afternoon may haunt the Tigers in late May if they happen to fight their way back on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Three swings of the bat by the Rebels in the eighth inning erased an eight-run LSU lead and set up a ninth-inning solo walk-off homer by Ole Miss freshman Kemp Alderman for a 10-9 home team victory in the series finale.

“As soon as I hit it I knew it was gone,” said Alderman, who on his second career at-bat in an SEC game pounded LSU reliever Ty Floyd’s first pitch in bottom half of the ninth over the right-field wall. “I kind of blacked out after that. It was a feeling I’ll never forget.”

Neither will LSU coach Paul Mainieri, who wasn’t around to witness the crushing ending in which three of Ole Miss’ last seven batters hit home runs.

Mainieri was tossed by home plate umpire Hank Himmanen during a mound visit to LSU reliever Garrett Edwards. The ejection followed Edwards giving up a two-out grand slam homer to Rebels’ center fielder TJ McCants that tied the game at 9-9 in the bottom of the eighth inning after LSU led 9-1 through the top half of the eighth.

Mainieri was steamed because he thought the Tigers should have been out of the inning a batter prior to McCants.

It’s when Edwards’ 3-2 pitch to Ole Miss third baseman Justin Bench split the middle of the plate for an apparent inning-ending third out strikeout. But Bench drew the walk to fill the bases when Himmanen called Edwards’ pitch a ball.

A rattled Edwards then grooved his first pitch to McCants, who had that point was 0 for 5 at the plate in the series with runners in scoring position and 0 for 7 with runners on base. He got a decent swing on the ball that headed toward LSU center fielder Giovanni DiGiocomo, but it didn’t look like there was much pop in McCants’ bat.

“I thought it was one of those routine pop-ups that I’d probably catch near the (warning) track,” DiGiocomo said. “I guess the wind kind of took over. I tried to get as much of my arm over (the wall) as I could. I knew it was close, but there wasn’t much I could have done.”

After Floyd replaced Edwards, he struck out Rebels’ first baseman Cael Baker to end the inning but it didn’t kill the Ole Miss momentum.

The Rebels then inserted SEC saves leader Taylor Broadway, who not only blew a save in LSU’s 5-4 win in the series opener Friday night but he was also credited with the loss.

As it turned out Saturday when he held LSU scoreless in the ninth striking out the last two batters after giving up a double to pinch-hitter Brady Drost, Broadway got credit for the pitching win thanks to Alderman’s walk-off heroics.

For the first five innings, LSU battered Ole Miss’ pitching for 12 hits in taking a commanding eight-run lead. In the final four innings, the Tigers were held scoreless and Drost’s ninth-inning double was LSU’s only hit.

Still, the Tigers almost got to the finish line first, even with their piecemeal pitching plan of stringing five freshman hurlers beginning with starter Will Helmers.

He delivered three innings, allowing one run and two hits, and was followed by Blake Money’s 1.2 scoreless innings.

Mainieri’s fateful decision appeared to be leaving LSU’s third reliever Javen Coleman twisting in the wind early in the Ole Miss eighth.

Coleman had just escaped a bases-loaded, no outs jam in Ole Miss seventh and actually got two outs in the eighth after allowing a leadoff single to McCants when he imploded.

Coleman walked Rebels’ designated hitter Ben Van Cleve and allowed an RBI single by shortstop Jacob Gonzales.

Mainieri didn’t change pitchers.

Then, Coleman gave up a three-run homer to second baseman Peyton Chatagnier to cut LSU’s lead to 9-5.

Mainieri didn’t change pitchers.

Ole Miss left fielder Kevin Graham singled and advanced to second on a Coleman wild pitch.

Mainieri didn’t change pitchers.

Finally, after Coleman hit Rebels’ catcher Hayden Dunhurst in the back of the helmet with a pitch, Mainieri pulled Coleman for Edwards.

By that time, LSU was clearly in trouble and two batters later McCants’ game-tying grand slam completely flipped the script.

So why didn’t Mainieri yank Coleman in the infancy stages of his meltdown?

“He was throwing the ball good and he’d gotten two outs,” Mainieri said. “What were the options? The pitchers we put in (Edwards and Floyd) didn’t exactly get anybody else out.”

In the end, LSU dropped to 24-15 overall and 6-12 in the SEC West, Ole Miss improved to 28-12 and 10-8 in the SEC and both Tigers and Rebels didn’t know quite how to view the weekend.

“We did win the series, which is a great feeling,” LSU’s Hellmers said. “But a loss like that puts you down for the bus ride back. You’ve got to stomach it the best you can.”

Then, there was Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco, whose team lost its fourth straight SEC series when LSU won Friday’s game two 7-2.

“It (rallying for Saturday’s win) was something we needed obviously,” Bianco said. “It hasn’t been a good few weeks for us. This weekend. we played as poorly as we probably have for several years.”

1 Comment

  1. It’s too often that a boneheaded call by an umpire changes the entire game!! Most often the next batter makes a great play just like the batter for Ole Miss did. It’s a damn shame and I don’t blame the LSU coach for being furious!!

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