LSU Bats Darken The Night At Plainsman Park

LSU's hitting was impressive as the visitors from Baton Rouge opened a three-game baseball series with a 9-4 victory over Auburn on Friday night. (An in-depth report follows for Tiger Ticket subscribers.)

Auburn, Ala.--Levale Speigner had a rare short outing on Friday night and that was not good news for the Tigers (23-9, 5-4) as he gave up eight runs on 10 hits in just two and a third innings as LSU (19-12, 4-5) defeated Auburn 9-4 Friday night at Plainsman Park in front of a record crowd of 4,491.

LSU starter Lane Mestepay stymied the Auburn hitters much of the night on the way to his sixth win of the season. He pitched six and two/thirds innings and allowed two earned runs on 10 hits while striking out four.

The story of the day was the middle of the LSU order. Hitters two through six in the batting order combined for 10 of LSU's 14 hits and contributed four runs batted in. Number nine hitter Chris Phillips didn't fare too badly, either, with three hits and three runs batted in, including his second home run of the season.

While the Tigers swung the bat well it was still a suprise to see Speigner struggle, especially to coach Steve Renfroe.

Levale Speigner throws a pitch in Auburn's 9-4 loss at Plainsman Park.

"He's out in the third inning and that sets the whole ball game up," Renfroe said. "We were down eight and we fought back. I was proud of the way we fought back…Levale not getting out of the third inning pretty much got them rolling."

It just wasn't to be for Speigner on Friday night and that began in the very first inning. With one out and nobody on, shortstop Aaron Hill doubled to left to get things going for LSU. After a pop up by Wally Pontiff, right fielder Sean Barker reached on an infield single to put runners on first and third after a fine diving stop by Tug Hulett at second base prevented Hill from scoring. It wouldn't matter as Matt Heath hit a bloop single to right field to score Hill signaling the onslaught to come.

Things would go from bad to worse for Speigner in the second inning as catcher Chris Phillips hit a two-run, wind-aided blast over the right field wall to put LSU up 3-0. That would just begin to tell the story as the third inning would be the last for Auburn's ace.

Barker led the inning off with a single to left and Heath followed with a double to left that put runners on second and third with nobody out. First baseman Blake Gill then hit a bloop single to center that scored Barker to make it 4-0. Vargas came through with a sacrifice fly to left field to score Heath and center fielder David Raymer doubled to left-center to follow him. Phillips again hurt Auburn, this time singling to right field off reliever Andrew Skinner. Before the damage was done the Fighting Tigers would score five runs in the inning and lead 8-0.

With Auburn in trouble, Skinner held the Tigers at bay with four and two/thirds innings of solid relief. At one point retiring 11-straight LSU hitters, Skinner kept Auburn in the game long enough for the offense to wake up and do some damage against Mestepay.

In the fifth inning the home team got it going with two outs and nobody on. Freshman shortstop Chuck Jeroloman singled up the middle and lead-off hitter Javon Moran followed with a single of his own to put runners on first and second. Mr. Clutch came through again as Jonathan Schuerholz singled to right field to score Jeroloman with Auburn's first run of the game.

Auburn would tighten things dramatically in the seventh inning as Mestepay began to tire. Well over 100 pitches, the sophomore gave up a lead-off single to Schuerholz and the Tigers were in business. After a Doug Vines strikeout for the first out of the inning, Bobby Huddleston hit a ground ball that Hill misplayed at shortstop allowing both runners to reach safely. Trent Pratt then singled to left field to score Schuerholz, making the score 8-2.

Trent Pratt is set to swing vs. Lance Mestepay.

Scott Schade continued the trend as he also singled to left to load the bases with just one out. Huddleston could have scored on the play because Heath misplayed the ball in left field, but the designated hitter had already stopped on third making it impossible for him to score. That would prove costly as Tug Hulett was up next and he drilled a liner off the foot of Mestepay on the mound that bounced towards the third base line. While he likely wouldn't have been able to throw out Hulett at first, he easily got Huddleston at the plate for the second out.

It would be up to Sean Gamble and the freshman would deliver, drilling a single to left to score both Pratt and Schade to cut the lead to 8-4, but that would be as close as the Tigers would come as they eventually fell by the score of 9-4 thanks to a Gill single that scored Pontiff from second in the ninth inning.

Tug Hulett races towards first base.

"If that ball doesn't hit the pitcher you've got an 8-6 game with guys still on," Renfroe said. "Who knows what happens then. Then Bobby is up. Whether it stayed 8-6 or 8-7, he's up then. It's a lot easier to pitch with four runs than it is with a one or two run lead. But he was good."

Schuerholz led the way with three hits and one run batted in while Gamble added a pair of hits and two runs driven in. The deciding factor in the game was runners left on base as Auburn stranded 13 compared to just seven by LSU.

Auburn and LSU square off on Saturday at 3 p.m. when Colby Paxton takes the mound against Jason Vargas for LSU. Paxton is 6-2 on the season with an earned run average of 3.59 while Vargas is 1-1 with an ERA of 3.07. There are no tickets available for the game.

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