LSU’s relief pitching is anything but just that, but still sweeps series over UTSA

LSU used six relievers in Sunday's 13-12 win over UTSA and the only one to retire the Roadrunners in order was Canadian freshman Theo Millas in the top of the 11th inning with the game tied at 12-12. Millas, making just his third college appearance, got credit for his first victory when Gavin Dugas' RBI single won the game in the bottom of the 11th.

No. 19 ranked LSU had a season-high 19 hits in Sunday’s non-conference series finale with Texas-San Antonio.

The Tigers launched five homers, raising the season-total to 33.

And LSU barely won. Again.

For the second straight game the Tigers’ relief pitching tossed gas on the fire, giving up 10 runs.

And for the second time in less than 24 hours in Alex Box Stadium, LSU’s thunderous bats saved the day in a 13-12 win decided by sophomore left fielder Gavin Dugas’ RBI walk-off single in the 11th inning.

The win gave LSU a series sweep to improve to 15-3 on the season. But none of the Tigers’ wins over the visiting Roadrunners – Saturday night’s 10-9 win in 13 innings and a Friday night’s 3-1 decision – were anything but easy.

In Saturday’s game, LSU blew a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning and had to use sophomore third baseman Cade Doughty’s second three-run homer in the 10th to extend the game and left fielder Dugas’ two-run, two-out full-count blast in the 12th inning to keep the Tigers alive before freshman Jordan Thompson slammed a walk-off solo homer in the 13th.

On Sunday, the Tigers had their 9-2 sixth inning lead erased by 10 consecutive UTSA runs including five in the ninth inning to tie the game at 9-9 to force extra innings and three in the top of the 10th to take a 12-9 lead.

That margin was erased by LSU in its half of the 10th with two swings of the bat, a two-run homer by freshman Thompson immediately followed by sophomore pinch-hitter Hayden Travinski’s game-tying solo homer.

After LSU found a reliever who could retire UTSA in order as Canadian freshman right-hander Theo Millas did it in the top of the 11th, Dugas drove freshman Will Safford home with the winning run.

“Baseball is a crazy game, that’s all I can say,” Dugas said after Sunday’s game reviewing the two of the wildest back-to-back home contests in recent years. “It was a great experience being part of this whole weekend.”

In all three wins, LSU got at least six innings from starting pitchers Jaden Hill (Friday’s game 1), Landon Marceaux (Saturday’s game 2) and AJ Labas (Sunday’s game 3).

That trio gave up 11 hits and two earned runs (both by Labas) in 18.2 innings for a 0.96 ERA while striking out 24, issuing five walks and throwing 174 strikes in 268 pitches (65 percent).

On the flip side, LSU coach Paul Mainieri used 20 relievers (four in game one, 10 in game two and six in game three) with six relievers making multiple appearances.

All the relievers combined for 14.1 innings and an ERA of 10.67, giving up 21 hits and 17 earned runs while striking out 12, walking 11 and throwing 156 strikes out of 285 pitches (55 percent).

With Saturday’s game going 13 innings and Sunday’s lasting 11, 18 of the 22 runs scored by UTSA in the series came in the eighth inning and after.

“Our starting pitching did a great job in all three games,” Mainieri said. “Obviously, we’ve got to tighten some things up with our bullpen. I think we’ll be okay. We’ve just got to figure out the right guys and use them at the right times and we’ll be fine.”

The Tigers play at home vs. Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday night at 6:30 before opening SEC play with a three-game series in Alex Box vs. Mississippi State starting with Friday’s 6 p.m. game.

The Bulldogs, ranked No. 4 nationally last week in the USA Today coaches poll, are 13-3 after sweeping Eastern Michigan over the weekend. State has recorded four straight shutouts before closing the Eastern Michigan series with identical 4-1 wins in games two and three.

Because the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 college season just as SEC play was about to begin, LSU will head into the league schedule with seven (four true freshmen, three sophomores) of its eight starting position players never having played in an SEC game.

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