Baton Rouge -- If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Quality starting pitching, an eighth-inning rally and a Matty Ott save have produced a pair of carbon copy 7-6 victories for LSU (14-1) over Cal State Fullerton this weekend at Alex Box Stadium.
On the heels of a dramatic come-from-behind win Friday night, Tyler Hanover’s bases loaded walk in the eighth inning broke a 6-6 tie and paved the way for a 1-2-3 Matty Ott save to clinch the series for LSU and put Paul Mainieri’s Tigers in position for a statement sweep.
“Any series is a big series, but this series came in with a little more hype than our other series, and people were looking at it as our first big challenge,” said centerfielder Mikie Mahtook. “We wanted to come out here and show what kind of team we were.”
Among other things, the Tigers have shown that they’re a team that can put together a rally when they need it most.
After Fullerton tied the score with a pair of runs in the eighth inning, LSU freshmen Ty Ross and JaCoby Jones came through with huge singles to turn the lineup over.
“I knew, in the bottom of the eighth, that I was getting on no matter what,” Ross said. “No matter what it took, I was going to get on.”
After Matt Fury came on to run for Ross, Jones failed to get a pair of bunts down before he delivered a single to left field.
Trey Watkins struck out, but junior Raph Rhymes slapped a single to right to load the bases for Tyler Hanover.
After getting ahead 3-0 in the count, Hanover took a pair of strikes before coaxing a walk on the full count offering from Titan reliever Dylan Floro.
“Three-o (my nerves) weren’t that bad,” Hanover said of his final at-bat. “Three-one I kind of got a little excited. Three-two, I was like, ‘OK this time it’s coming down to you,’, and I took a pitch that was way out, or at least I thought it was.”
The run would be enough for Ott, who retired Fullerton in order to record his second save in as many games.
Junior Kevin Berry picked up his first win as a Tiger, wiggling out of the eighth inning jam that Ryan Eades created. Berry Allowed only a bunt single in his two-thirds of an inning. With the go-ahead run on third, Berry got Austin Kingsolver swinging on a nasty breaking ball to preserve the tie.
Freshman Kevin Gausman started the ballgame for the Tigers and allowed four earned runs in his seven innings of work.
The Tigers spotted Gausman a two run lead in the first.
Watkins led off the inning with a walk. He stole second and third before scoring on a ground ball to short stop - which resulted in an error, allowing Hanover to reach. Mahtook followed with a double to left-center to score Hanover.
Fullerton clawed within one run in the third by way of a hit by pitch, two bunts and a wild pitch. LSU answered, scoring two runs on an errant pickoff throw that found centerfield from Titan starter Tyler Pill.
Carlos Lopez doubled to lead off the fourth for Cal State Fullerton, and he came around to score on a pair of groundouts.
Friday’s hero, Grant Dozar, getting just his second start of the season, drove in a run with a double to left field, and Ross singled behind him to plate a hustling Dozar.
“(Dozar) is such a great kid,” Mainieri said. “He got that hit. Ross got the hit. Those were two huge runs, very clutch hits.”
In the sixth, Michael Lorenzen launched the Titans first home run all season to cut the deficit to two, before they tied it in the eighth, prompting the Tiger rally.
Senior Ben Alsup will get the nod for Mainieri tomorrow. Game time is set for 1 p.m.