Baseball games are so often determined by which team takes advantage of the opportunities it’s presented and which team does not.
Texas turned a mini threat into four two-out runs in the third inning to seize control of the game while LSU stranded 12 men on base — eight in the first five innings before things got out of hand — and missed out on a chance to complete a sweep.
LSU found itself in another deep hole and this time there was no dramatic comeback brewing. The Tigers fell in an 11-1 rout to Texas as the Longhorns salvaged a series finale at Alex Box Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“Rough day at the office today,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s two Sundays that we’ve struggled, so we’ve got to find the answers for sure, and we’ve got to do that pretty quickly.
Right-hander Todd Peterson lasted just four innings for the second consecutive start to begin the season. He was better in the sense that he threw more strikes, an emphasis for the LSU staff this weekend, but Texas still tagged him for five runs on seven hits.
That makes six sub-par starts in seven games for the LSU rotation, with Zack Hess’ win on Friday night standing as the lone exception. LSU pitching as a whole has allowed double-digit hits in six of seven games to begin the season.
Despite the disappointing conclusion, LSU (4-3) still notched an impressive series victory against a ranked Texas (4-3) and completed a 3-1 week overall.
“When you have games like this and you’re on the wrong side of them, it’s not much fun,” Mainieri said. “But it’s still only one game. It would’ve been nice to sweep them, but it just wasn’t in the cards for us today.”
But Mainieri and Co. will be left wondering what could have been if some things had broken differently in the early going.
The Tigers let a major chance to score first fall by the wayside. LSU loaded the bases with one out in the first inning, but Nick Webre, starting in place of the suspended Beau Jordan, grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to short-circuit the threat.
“That just shows how small the margin for error is in baseball,” Antoine Duplantis said. “It’s a game of inches. If we take care of things in that first inning, maybe the game is different. And maybe not, but that’s just the game of baseball. We’ve got to lock it in for those big moments.”
LSU stranded two more runners in scoring position in the second inning, and Texas right-hander Blair Henley settled into a grove and began carving up the Tigers from there. Henley scattered six hits and three walks over six scoreless innings.
That’s when the wheels began to fell off for Peterson after two solid innings. David Hamilton got Texas on the board with a two-out double. Peterson then loaded up the bases and Zach Zubia cleared them with a three-run double into the right-center field gap.
“If we have Zach Watson and Antoine covering that gap, maybe that ball is caught,” Mainieri said. “Those are the little things that can add up when you don’t have your best personnel out there.”
Unlike Saturday night, Texas kept adding on to its lead against the underbelly of the LSU bullpen. The Longhorns added two more runs in the fifth and broke the game open with another four-spot in the seventh to snuff out any faint hopes of another comeback bid.
LSU will be back in action on Tuesday night against Grambling for the start of a five-game week. The Tigers will travel to Hammond on Wednesday to take on Southeastern before returning to the Box on Friday night.