Baton Rouge - It was a quiet, increasingly familiar scene at Alex Box Stadium on Thursday night.
Taylor Black’s two-out, two-run bloop single in the top of the seventh, J.T. Riddle’s diving catch on a Tyler Hanover fly ball to end the bottom half and, finally, Michael Williams’ long two-run homer in the eighth had created a 5-1 Kentucky lead, and Kentucky ace Alex Meyer was cruising.
What happened next was anything but familiar.
The Tigers and their gold uniforms rekindled the 2008 magic and released a month’s worth of frustrations in an eight-run eighth inning to shock Kentucky for the 9-5 win.
“We’ve been so close so many times this year and lost them in the end,” said Mikie Mahtook. “You just don’t want to lose anymore.”
The 6-foot-9 Meyer had held the Tiger bats down through seven dominant innings, allowing just three hits, while striking out 10.
“He’s as good as we’ve faced this year,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “For seven innings, really, he overpowered us.”
Meyer, the SEC’s leader in strikeouts and complete games, began the eighth by walking Grant Dozar. An infield hit by Ty Ross chased Meyer, who struck out 10, and opened the flood gates for the Tiger bats.
Trevor Gott was first out of the Kentucky bullpen.
JaCoby Jones rolled an infield single to the right side to load the bases for the top of the Tiger order.
Gott uncorked a wild pitch to plate Dozar, and Trey Watkins’ ground ball scored Ross to cut the deficit to 5-3.
Mike Lowery pinch hit for Spencer Ware, and his ground ball caught the lip of the infield allowing him to reach for LSU’s third infield hit of the inning. Jones scored on the play to cut the lead to one.
That was all for Gott.
But not the Tiger bats, not even close.
Mahtook, who had fanned three times against Meyer, hammered a double off the top of the wall in right center off of Braden Kapteyn, and pinch runner Ryan Eades, representing the tying run, moved to third.
“Meyer had my number the whole day,” Mahtook said. “They put a new guy in, and I like those situations. I didn’t want to let my team down.”
Kapteyn got what looked to be a huge strikeout of Raph Rhymes for the second out, but he walked Austin Nola and plunked Tyler Hanover to tie the game at five.
Lefty Alex Phillips was next out of the Wildcat bullpen, but the wave of momentum was too much for him, too.
Mainieri went to Mason Katz, who had been sidelined for two weeks with a broken hand.
Phillips’ first pitch went to the backstop to send Mahtook dashing home and give LSU the lead. Then Katz delivered a two-run single to right center field, giving LSU an 8-5 lead.
“It didn’t really hurt,” said Katz of his broken right hand. “The worst part was when I got to second base and started clapping.”
Ross followed Katz with his third hit of the night, and RBI single to increase the Tiger lead to 9-5.
Matty Ott threw a scoreless ninth to slam the door.
Lost in the late offensive explosion was the bounce-back effort from McCune. Following his worst two outings of the year, the freshman threw 6 1/3 gritty innings, allowing just two runs while striking out seven.
“I really don’t have time for my confidence to not be up,” McCune said. “We’ve got to win a lot of these games, and I’ve got a lot of the starts.”
Game two of the series is set for 7 p.m. Friday night and will be televised by CST.
A pair of freshmen, Kevin Gausman and Corey Littrell, will get the starts.
The Red Cross will be at Alex Box Stadium accepting donations for tornado victims in the Southeast.