By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU came out of the gate swinging on Tuesday night — for about two innings anyway.
The Tigers took and subsequently surrendered a 5-1 lead to South Alabama at Alex Box Stadium as the Jaguars scored three runs in top of the ninth inning to complete the comeback and defeat LSU 7-6.
LSU scored five runs on five hits in the first two innings before going dark at the plate. The Tigers managed just five hits the rest of the way, leaving the door open for a game South Alabama club to chip away against a short-handed bullpen that didn’t have Hunter Newman or Zack Hess available.
“We were really shorthanded tonight with our lineup as well as with our relief corps,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “So that was unbelievable that we got through the game and we were almost able to pull off a win without having our guys. At the end of the day, we didn’t do enough tonight.”
The short-staffed bullpen just wasn’t able to keep the visitors at bay. Tiger pitching allowed 10 hits, and more problematically, issued 10 walks. Those free passes eventually came back to bite them.
“A few weeks ago I thought we got that straightened out,” Mainieri said. “It reared its head again tonight. You give 10 free passes to the other team it’s going to come back and haunt you at some point.”
Meanwhile, South Alabama lefty Andy Arguelles came out of the Jaguar bullpen and stifled LSU’s hot start at the plate. He allowed just four hits and struck out eight over 6.1 innings of shutout relief to pick up the victory. A freshman, Arguelles entered the game with an ERA of 5.94.
The loss drops LSU to 32-17 overall while South Alabama improves to 31-18 and receives a major RPI boost as the Jaguars build their case for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Even with a handful of regulars out of the lineup, things began promisingly for the Tigers.
Trailing 1-0 on a two-out single by Travis Swaggerty, Kramer Robertson led off the home first with a hustle double to right center field. After a sac bunt and a popup, Deichmann gave LSU the lead with a two-out, two-run home run to left, his 16th of the season.
LSU kept raking with three more runs in the second inning.
Josh Smith led off with a double to right center. Jake Slaughter, getting a rare start at first base, brought him home with a single through the left side. Cole Freeman brought home a run with a ground ball. Antoine Duplantis stayed hot with a two-out RBI single to center.
South Alabama began chipping away at the lead. Swaggerty picked up his second RBI of the evening with a sacrifice fly in the fourth. Colton Thomas cut the deficit to two with a two-out RBI double to right center off Collin Strall in the fifth.
LSU got a scare in the sixth inning as Beau Jordan crashed into the fall down the left field line. Jordan stayed down until help arrived in the person of LSU trainer Cory Couture, but once up the veteran jogged it off and remained in the game.
The Jaguars scored again later in the inning, aided by two walks issued by Todd Peterson. Jared Barnes came through with a two-out single up the middle to cut the LSU lead to just a run. Peterson got out of the inning with minimal damage and fired a scoreless seventh to preserve the one-run lead.
Matt Beck came on for the eighth but gave way to Nick Bush with two on and two outs. Bush walked the bases loaded before inducing a fly ball to shallow left field.
That’s where the Flying Jordan Brother came in. LSU’s left fielder raced in and made a full-extension diving catch near the foul line to strand the bases loaded.
“At that point I was just like ‘Dude, if the ball is hit in your area, you’ve got to lay out for it,'” Jordan said. “Those runs were huge. Came up short tonight. Got to get better.”
Two previous collisions with the confides of Alex box Stadium clearly didn’t soften his resolve, but he felt it afterward. Jordan was lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the inning after his left elbow swelled up. It was the second crash that did the most damage, he said, and he couldn’t squeeze a bat.
Bush found himself in more trouble in the ninth after beginning the inning with a walk and a single. A fly ball moved the tying run to third base with one out. South Alabama tied the game with a safety squeeze and the go-ahead runs moved into scoring position when Slaughter flipped the ball over catcher Mike Papierski’s head.
Barnes drove in the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly. The Jaguars added another run as Will Luft singled through the right side to bring home an insurance run. Deichmann appeared to cut the run down at the plate, thus ending the inning, but the call was reserved after a video review.
LSU made things interesting in the ninth. Robertson singled with two outs, moved to second on a balk and scored on an RBI single from Freeman. An error moved Freeman into scoring position, but Duplantis popped up to end the game.
The Tigers will enjoy an off day before hosting Auburn in a pivotal Southeastern Conference series set to begin Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
-First baseman Nick Coomes (shoulder) and center fielder Zach Watson (leg) were both out of the lineup Tuesday.