The high-stakes rubber match between LSU and Ole Miss quickly turned into a battled of the beleaguered bullpens, and the home team turned the game over to their closer first.
Ole Miss scored five times in the seventh inning, taking the lead on a three-run home run from Thomas Dillard, and held on to defeat LSU 9-8 in a back-and-forth affair at Swayze Field in Oxford on Saturday afternoon.
It’s a deflating way to end what could have been a monumental series victory for LSU had it managed to hold on to a 7-4 lead through the final three innings. Instead the bullpen allowed the Rebels to put up a crooked inning en route to a defeat for the second time this weekend.
LSU found itself in an early 4-1 hole after starter Todd Peterson got knocked around for four runs in the second inning. Things looked bleak early, but the Tigers came right back with a haymaker of their own.
Austin Bain smoked an RBI double that cut the deficit to two. Zach Watson tied the game with a two-run double and Hunter Feduccia continued his huge weekend with an RBI single to put LSU ahead. Nick Coomes chipped in with a sac fly and Hal Hughes laid down a squeeze bunt to cap a six-run inning.
Caleb Gilbert, who missed last week with shoulder soreness, took over for Peterson and was simply awesome. He cruised through four shutout innings while limiting Ole Miss to just one hit, but things spiraled out of control for him quickly in the seventh.
LSU coach Paul Mainieri chose to ride Gilbert because the rest of his bullpen has struggled mightily of late. A pair of run-scoring knocks cut the LSU lead to one before Dillard took a full-count offering from Gilbert way deep to right field.
Quiet offensively since the six-run third inning, LSU put the tying runs on base in the ninth thanks to an Antoine Duplantis single and a walk to Bain. A bases-loaded walk to Feduccia got LSU within a run and moved the tying run to third base, but Coomes struck out looking and Jake Slaughter flied out to end the game.
LSU (26-19, 10-11 Southeastern Conference) won’t play a midweek game this week because of final exams. The Tigers will begin a home series against Arkansas at Alex Box Stadium on Friday night.