If Saturday night’s LSU baseball game is any indication of how the feisty Tigers will fare in Southeastern Conference play when it starts Friday, Tigers’ fans are advised to pack a couple of extra meals and a jumbo bottle of Xanax.
After 11 LSU pitchers and game-extending home runs by third baseman Cade Doughty and left fielder Gavin Dugas, it was freshman shortstop Jordan Thompson who belted a solo walk-off homer with one out in the 13th inning for a 10-9 victory over Texas-San Antonio in Alex Box Stadium.
Thompson ended the four-hour and 40 minute affair after LSU blew a 4-0 lead in the eighth inning and had to use Doughty’s second three-run homer in the 10th to send the game further and Dugas’ two-run, two-out full-count blast in the 12th inning to keep the Tigers alive.
“I hit one walk-off in high school, but it doesn’t compare to what I feel now,” said Thompson, who now has four home runs among his 12 hits this season. “I don’t even know what to say about it. I’m still trying to process it.”
So was LSU coach Paul Mainieri, whose 13-3 team clinched the weekend series which ends with Sunday’s 2 p.m. game vs. the 5-5 Roadrunners.
“That was one of the more crazy games we’ve had here in my tenure at LSU,” Mainieri said. “There’s a lot of things to be concerned about, but right now I’m proud of the guys with their never-say-die attitude. Just kept battling to the end several times. We were just very fortunate we didn’t lose it in regulation or in extra innings.”
The Tigers’ four-run rally in the third was keyed by Doughty’s three-run homer and LSU was rocking nicely with Tigers’ starter Landon Marceaux delivering six innings of two-hit shutout baseball in which he struck out 11 and walked three.
Then, LSU relief pitching imploded as UTSA scored three runs in the eighth inning, tied the game at 4-4 in the ninth and appeared to have victory in hand with a 7-4 lead in the 10th highlighted by third baseman Austin Ochoa’s two-run homer.
But with one out and two teammates aboard in the LSU half of the 10th, Doughty drove UTSA reliever Reece Easterling’s first-pitch fastball into the left-centerfield bleachers for a 7-7 tie with his second three-run homer of the game.
It was also Doughty’s sixth home run in his last seven games.
“I just really seeing the ball well right now,” Doughty said. “Getting good pitches to hit and not missing them is a big part of my game right now.”
As clutch as Doughty’s repeat dinger seemed at the time, Dugas jacked up the drama after UTSA second baseman Jonathan Tapia two-run double off LSU freshman reliever Blake Money handed the Roadrunners’ a 9-7 lead in the top of the 12th inning.
LSU freshman Tre’ Morgan doubled to open the bottom of the 12th. But Easterling struck out Doughty swinging, retired freshman pinch-hitting designated hitter Will Safford on a grounder and had a 3-2 count on Dugas.
“As long as we’re still breathing, as long as that last out isn’t made, we still have a chance,” Thompson said. “When Gavin came up and had two strikes on him, I was most confident in him. In my head before that pitch was thrown, I was thinking `He’s about to hit a home run right here.’”
Dugas must have sensed Thompson’s vibe, banging a game-tying two-run homer into the left-center field bleachers.
After Money retired UTSA in order on 11 pitches in the top of the 13th – something that LSU reliever Devin Fontenot did in the UTSA 11th – Thompson unloaded new UTSA reliever John Chomko’s 1-1 one-out pitch for a homer over the left-center field fence.
“For me to come up in that situation was huge,” Thompson said. “I just tried to put a good swing on the ball and it went out.”
So after a combined 95 at-bats, 23 hits and 410 pitches, the game was over with midnight approaching.
Thankfully for Thompson, the Tigers and Mainieri, whose pitching options were getting less and less as Mainieri was trying to preserve some arms for the Sunday finale.
“I know I made a lot of pitching changes,” Mainieri said. “But we’ve got a lot of guys, we’ve got to run them out there and see who we can count on.
“Sometimes, you find out some good in tough situations and sometimes you find out some things that you necessarily want to see.”
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