It’s unwise to let LSU get any momentum when holding a lead at a packed Alex Box Stadium.
Otherwise things have a weird way of snowballing in new and surprising ways.
LSU dug its way out of a 5-0 hole with a five-run fifth inning and Nick Webre scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch in the seventh inning as the Tigers stormed back with 10 unanswered runs to stun Texas 10-5 and clinch a series victory on Saturday night.
“That was kind of the tale of two ball games,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I’m not sure how much more one-sided the first four and a half innings of a ball game could be … It’s just a testament to these kids learning lessons already. Baseball games are nine innings in duration. What you do in the first few innings don’t matter and what you do at the end of the game does.”
The Tigers pounded out 14 hits — some more questionably-scored than others — but the LSU bullpen was once again sensational to key to the come-from-behind win. Four relievers divvied up the final five innings and three-hit a Texas lineup that played some serious long ball in the first few innings.
Things got hairy in the eighth inning, with Texas putting the tying runs on base in a 7-5 game, but Nick Bush caught back-to-back Longhorns looking to strand runners on the corner. Bush struck out the side in relief of Matt Beck, who was outstanding for 1.1 innings in his own right. All that was made possible by 1.2 stabilizing innings from lefty Taylor Petersen.
“We’re going through the process at this point of the season where we establish our identity,” Austin Bain said of the bullepn. “It’s just a bunch of grinders. Pass it to the next guy family and do whatever you can to help each other.”
Freshman Daniel Cabrera provided some insurance in the bottom of the eighth with a long solo home run to right, the first of his collegiate career. Bryce Jordan took some more of the suspense out of the ninth with a two-out, two-run single. He tied a career-high with three hits on the night.
Those runs were appreciated as Texas proceeded to load the bases against Bain, who moved from the designated hitter spot to the mound as the closer. Bain composed himself and got a popup to short and a strikeout to end the game.
The comeback locks up a resounding series win for LSU (4-2) and an opportunity to sweep a ranked Longhorns (3-3) club one weekend after looking totally inept in all facets of the game against Notre Dame. However, it doesn’t resolve growing concern about one of the mainstays of the weekend rotation.
Texas lit up Caleb Gilbert in the early going, even though LSU kept itself in the game thanks to three sparkling web gems from Antoine Duplantis in center field to save runs. The Longhorns took the early lead on a two-run homer from Zach Zubia in the second and a solo shot from Kody Clemens in the third.
The Longhorns tacked on another run in the fourth inning. LSU didn’t record its first hit against Texas right-hander Chase Shugart until the fourth inning, an infield single by Bain.
Zubia led off the fifth with his second home run to knock Gilbert out of the game. The junior departed having allowed five runs on 10 hits, his second consecutive sub-par outing to begin the season.
“You can’t have it both ways,” Mainieri said in defense of his starter. “We’ve been emphasizing throwing the ball over the plate, and Caleb did. He threw it over the plate, and he was getting to two-strike counts, but he just couldn’t put anybody away.”
The Tigers managed to get him off the hook again.
LSU finally broke through against Shugart in the fifth, and thanks to more shoddy defense from the Longhorns, the floodgates immediately opener. Brandt Broussard got LSU on the board with an RBI single off Shugart. He then scored when a chopper somehow got past Clemens and bounded down the left-field line for an RBI double credited to Hal Hughes.
“It’s just a momentum swing,” Bain said. “Once you get the momentum, things like that happen. That’s just how baseball is.”
Things got even weirder from there. Bain skied a ball to center field that got dropped at the wall and ruled an RBI double. Duplantis followed with a ringing RBI double to right and Hunter Feduccia tied the game with an RBI single through the right side.
Beau Jordan followed with a single and got ejected for flipping Shugart the bird on his way to first base, dumping gasoline on an already fired-up dugout. He’ll serve a one-game suspension per NCAA rules.
“I love when the dugout is all pumped up and stuff,” Bryce Jordan said. “The whole team just feeds off of it.”
Beau was replaced by Webre, who doubled and came around to score the go-ahead run in the seventh inning. Broussard followed with another RBI single to become the first Tiger to 10 RBI.
“There were so many heroes in the game tonight that it’s kind of hard to identify each one,” Mainieri said. “It was a wonderful win. It felt like a Super Regional atmosphere out here tonight.”
The Tigers will go for a sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. First pitch was moved up by an hour in an attempt to avoid inclement weather in the forecast. LSU will send Todd Peterson (0-1, 6.75 ERA) as Texas counters with Blair Henley (0-0, 1.80 ERA).
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