NEW ORLEANS — LSU staged its second ninth-inning rally in as many games, but it wasn’t enough to finish off a sweep of its in-state rival.
The Tigers scored six runs in the final three innings to take a 9-7 lead over Tulane into the bottom of the ninth inning. The Green Wave promptly answered back with three runs of their own in the bottom of the ninth to take a wild 10-9 thriller in front of a sellout crowd of 5,000 at Turchin Stadium on Wednesday night.
“It was a tremendous comeback by our guys,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Big hits. It’s a shame we wasted such a great comeback.”
Closer Austin Bain had already pitched earlier in the game, so LSU turned to Devin Fontenot to close things out. Grant Witherspoon greeted him with a solo home run that cut the lead to 9-8. Fontenot was hooked after walking the tying run on base and uncorking a wild pitch to move him into scoring position.
Matt Beck came on and served up a game-tying double to Kody Hoese. LSU intentionally walked the bases loaded to set up the double play, but Beck walked in the winning run on four pitches to send Tulane into a wild celebration.
“After the double we were in a tough situation,” Mainieri said. “Obviously I did the wrong thing by walking those batters. It put too much pressure on our pitcher and he wasn’t capable of throwing strikes under those conditions … There’s no defense if you don’t throw the ball over the plate.”
That loss snaps a four-game losing streak for LSU (24-14) as Tulane (17-21) earns a split of the annual home-and-home rivalry series. Earlier in the night, the Green Wave seemed well on their way to a considerable more ho-hum victory.
Tulane had control of the game from the third inning on and was a strike away from closing the door on a 7-6 victory in the ninth, but LSU stormed back to — momentarily — take the lead.
Brandt Broussard, making his return to the lineup after missing three games with a broken thumb, got hit with a pitch to begin the craziness. After two quick outs, Broussard stole second base and took third when the catcher’s throw sailed into center field.
That left it up to Zach Watson, who fell behind 1-2 in the count. Tulane closer Ben White challenged him with a high fastball and Watson tomahawked a game-tying double into the left field corner.
Daniel Cabrera, Sunday’s walk-off hero, put LSU ahead with an RBI single back through the middle. He took second on a throw to the plate and Nick Coomes singled him home with his fourth hit of the night.
“Our season is not over from this,” Watson said. “We’ve got a lot of games ahead of us.”
Failure to hold leads was the defining story for LSU. The Tigers took the lead in the third and ninth innings only to have their pitchers surrender eight runs in the bottom halves of those innings.
Unforced errors on the part of Tulane put LSU ahead early. Hal Hughes drew a leadoff walk and moved into scoring position on an errant pickoff attempt. Broussard rolled a grounder to second base that got thrown away, scoring Hughes.
That set the table for the big bats to do damage. Antoine Duplantis sliced an RBI double into the left field corner to bring Broussard home. He took third on a wild pitch and Bain grounded an RBI single through the drawn-in infield to make it 3-0 Tigers.
The lead, like so many on Wednesday night, didn’t last long. Tulane began the home third with a double and two singles to get on the board against LSU right-hander AJ Labas.
Second baseman Jonathon Artigues attempted to bunt but instead fell behind in the count 0-2. He then launched a three-run homer into the prevailing breeze to right field that put Tulane ahead 4-3. Shortstop Sal Goozo tacked on an RBI single to cap the five-run frame.
Labas left the game after three innings, his shortest start since being taken off a strict pitch count, having allowed a career-high five earned runs.
“He just couldn’t put anybody away,” Mainieri said. “He got two strikes on a bunch of batters. Just didn’t have the stuff to strike them out, and when you put the bat on the ball there’s a chance for something good to happen.”
Right-hander Trent Vietmeier took over on the mound and didn’t fare much better. Artigues battled through a 10-pitch at-bat before smoked an RBI double to right-center field. A sacrifice fly from Trevor Jensen extended the lead to 7-3.
Strong efforts from other relievers kept LSU hanging around. Cam Sanders worked two perfect innings before Bain came on and pitched a perfect seventh. Mainieri said Bain needed the work and he couldn’t save him for later on, though he conceded it would’ve been nice to have him in the ninth.
Dormant offensively for much of the night, LSU managed to pull a run closer in the seventh. Chris Reid came off the bench to begin the inning and Duplantis came through with a two-out RBI single. Duplantis has now recorded multiple hits in 11 of his last 19 games.
LSU got within a run in the eighth inning. Coomes singled with two outs and Jake Slaughter dunked one into right field that bounded past a defender and went to the wall. Slaughter ended up with an RBI triple and scored on a subsequent wild pitch to set up the ninth inning rally.
“It’s one game and we did a lot of good things tonight,” Mainieri said. “Unfortunately we just weren’t able to finish it off. Tough loss.”
LSU will depart Thursday to begin a three-game series at South Carolina on Friday night. First pitch is set for 6 p.m. in Columbia.