When the highlight of LSU’s SEC baseball series against No. 1 team Vanderbilt is the 20 minutes or so on Saturday it led the Commodores in 27 innings of futility spread over three days, it’s hard to find much optimism moving forward.
Maybe it’s fact the Tigers didn’t get blown out in a 5-4 game three loss in Alex Box Stadium, that they weren’t totally embarrassed in being swept for a second straight weekend.
But even that is a small consolation for LSU (17-11, 1-8 SEC), which lost its sixth straight SEC game and now has opened league play losing its first three series.
The Tigers’ last gasp from being swept was a ninth-inning rally when LSU loaded the bases trailing 5-3 with one out off Vanderbilt reliever Luke Murphy.
Murphy gave up a sacrifice fly second out to LSU left fielder Gavin Dugas, who scored Tigers’ first baseman Tre’ Morgan to cut Vandy’s lead to a run. But then Murphy induced LSU third baseman Cade Doughty to pop out to shortstop to end the game.
“I had visions we were going to get one good swing and we were going to walk them off,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “But it didn’t happen for us and we lost a heartbreaker.”
LSU starting pitcher AJ Labas left the game with one out in the sixth and the score tied 3-3 after he allowed four hits in Vandy’s three-run third inning.
It was his only bad stretch of the game, allowing a two-run homer by Commodores’ shortstop Carter Young and an RBI single by designated hitter Spencer Jones.
Ultimately, Vandy’s game-winning hit was freshman Jack Bulger’s two-run homer in the seventh for a 5-3 lead off LSU freshman reliever Garrett Edwards.
“Whenever you made a bad pitch, they made you pay for it,” Labas said of Vanderbilt’s stout batting lineup. “With them, their pitching is unbelievable. That was one of the better teams we’ve played since we’ve been here.”
In three games, Vanderbilt (23-3, 8-1 SEC) outscored LSU 30-6 and outhit the Tigers 42-12 with 14 extra-base hits for the Commodores to four for LSU.
From the opening pitch to closing pitch, the series was an even bigger mismatch on the field than it was on paper.
LSU’s vastly inexperienced lineup was no match for Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, Vandy’s Friday and Saturday’s starting pitchers who appear correctly projected as top five picks in June’s upcoming 2021 June MLB draft.
“They are major league pitchers,” Mainieri said. “We knew it was going to be hard and we couldn’t hold them (Vandy’s offense) down the last two nights, either.
“It’s hard to mount anything against a pitching staff like that. They have so many quality arms. We just couldn’t match them. The kids did the best they could.”
LSU is scheduled for a Tuesday non-conference home game vs. McNeese State before opening a league road series at Kentucky Friday.
“I’ll say it before and I’ll say it again – we have a really good team,” Dugas insisted. “We are really good, but at the same time we are really young.
“I’m not trying to make excuses at all. But we will figure it out. We’ll get on the right track eventually.”