METAIRIE, La. — LSU dug itself an early hole and couldn’t string enough hits together to get out of it as UL-Lafayette won 3-1 at the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic on Tuesday night to complete a season sweep.
Runs were tough to come by on a blustery night at the spacious Shrine on Airline. LSU piled up 10 hits, but five came with the bases empty and two outs while the Tigers finished an anemic 2-for-14 once there was a runner aboard. LSU only put the leadoff man on board twice all night, and one of those came on an error.
The setback marks the third loss for LSU (16-10) in 15 playings of the annual Pontiff Classic and first in five meetings with the Cajuns in Metairie.
“We got 10 hits and scored one run. That’s totally unacceptable,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s been happening all year. I told the kids after the game ‘We’re just not coaching you well enough. We’re trying to tell you what to do and guys aren’t doing it.’ I’ve just got to find the answers. I take responsibility for it. I’m just not getting the best out of them. I know we’re better than this.”
AJ Labas looked uncharacteristically erratic to start out the game, and while he managed to limit the damage to a minimum, LSU quickly found itself looking up at a 3-0 deficit through three innings. Labas settled in from there and gave LSU 5.1 innings with six strikeouts.
The freshman didn’t get much help from a defense, either. UL-Lafayette center fielder Gavin Bourgeois began the third inning with a double off the glove of LSU left fielder Daniel Cabrera. He scored on an infield ground ball despite LSU bringing the infield in as Hal Hughes throw to the play was offline.
“We made the wrong decision there throwing home,” Mainieri said. “Zach Watson threw to the wrong base on a hit-and-run. We’ve just got to play better. We’ve got to play smarter, and that’s my responsibility as the coach. We’re not playing very smart and I think that’s keeping us from fulfilling our potential.”
Meanwhile Cajuns lefty Hogan Harris was simply dominant in the early going after weeks on the shelf due to injury. He scattered five hits and struck out five over four strong innings.
LSU got on the board thanks to a Cajun error in the fourth, but the inning could’ve been so much more productive. Third base coach Sean Ochinko was late putting up a stop sign on a Nick Coomes double to right and Austin Bain got thrown out at the plate by a country mile.
“Sean gave him the stop sign too late,” Mainieri said. “He shouldn’t have sent him, but Sean knows he made a mistake and he feels awful about it. He’s filling in because Nolan (Cain) is on the road recruiting … God bless him. He did the best he could. He just made too late of a decision to stop him.”
Labas retired eight in a row going into the sixth before an error and a single chased him from the game. Matt Beck came on and started a 1-6-3 double play to end the inning. Tricky picks from Hughes at shortstop and Jake Slaughter at first base made the twin killing happen.
LSU threatened again in the eighth after a leadoff double to right from Bain. A Cabrera walk put the tying runs on base, sending UL-Lafayette coach Tony Robichaux back to the bullpen. Lefty Brock Batty came on and got Slaughter to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.
UL-Lafayette turned the game over to closer Logan Stoelke in the ninth to nail down the save. A pinch hit single from Nick Webre and a hit by pitch brought the winning run to the plate, but Beau Jordan and Antoine Duplantis grounded out softly to end the game.
The Tigers, losers of two straight, will return home before hosting Mississippi State for a three-game series slated to begin Thursday night at Alex Box Stadium.