LSU scratches past Jackson State, 11-7

In a game where so much went wrong, LSU did just enough right to defeat Jackson State and advance to the winners' bracket of the Baton Rouge regional.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri would rather dwell on the positives from his team's 11-7 win against Jackson State in the Baton Rouge regional opener on Friday.

He'd prefer to focus on Sean McMullen's three hits and Mason Katz' four RBI. He'll remember Kurt McCune's 4 2/3 scoreless innings of relief and Nate Fury's consecutive strikeouts to strand the bases loaded.

But others will certainly bring up the negatives. Things like Ryan Eades' three walks in 2 1/3 innings or the disappointing bullpen appearances by Kevin Berry and Hunter Newman. Then there's also the fact that Jackson State had the game-tying run on deck in the ninth inning.

"I don't know what adjective to use, but it was maybe one of the more painful wins we've had," Mainieri said.

Mainieri will admit that his team didn't resemble the No. 4 national seed in the NCAA Tournament and the No. 1 team in the country according to four polls. But LSU did get the win, and they do advance to the winner's bracket.

"Nothing went by script today," Mainieri said. "There were a lot of things that didn't go great today. But there were also a lot of things that were really outstanding. I'm really happy that some guys rose to the occasion for our team."

The game started under ominous circumstances as scattered thunderstorms hovered over Alex Box Stadium. With Eades getting the start, Jackson State actually struck first for a pair of runs in the opening inning.

Eades struggled with his command, surrendering a leadoff single before hitting a batter with two outs. He threw two more pitches before the rain became too heavy and the game was called for a 25-minute weather delay.

A wet ball could be attributed to some of his control issues, but Eades couldn't even find his grip once play resumed. He gave up a two-run double to JSU CF Charles Tilery, who went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI.

Eades escaped a bases loaded jam in the second before walking two more batters in the third. That last free pass, his third of the game, was it for him, as he came out to mark his shortest outing of the season.

"It was just one of those days where he never found any rhythm out there," Mainieri said. "He was obviously having a lot of trouble with the humidity and how wet his hand was. He had a tough time getting a grip on the ball…but when the conditions are like this he has to know how to manage it."

McCune replaced Eades and quieted the JSU attack while LSU's offense went to work. He surrendered four hits in 4 2/3 innings and didn't allow a run while striking out five.

"Kurt came in and saved the day," Mainieri said. "He was phenomenal, absolutely outstanding. That's as well as he's thrown in a long, long time."

LSU tied it in the bottom of the first courtesy of a sacrifice fly by Katz, one of four by LSU in the game. Then LSU tacked on one more thanks to an error by JSU SS Nick Marigny.

LSU took the lead in the third with another sac fly by Katz and a RBI-double by Christian Ibarra. Then LSU blew it open in the fourth. McMullen and Chris Sciambra — pinch-hitting for Alex Bregman, who was injured in a collision with Raph Rhymes in the previous inning — brought in runs before Katz lifted a two-run homer that hit off the batters' eye in center field.

Jared Foster joined in the home run club with a two-run shot to left field in the sixth. That put LSU on top 10-2 at the time.

"As a team, we had a really good approach to today's game," McMullen said. "We put the ball in play and we hit it hard. It's good momentum going into the next game, and we're looking forward to that."

But Jackson State didn't go down quietly. The regional's No. 4-seed scored three runs in the eighth inning off Berry to provide a sweat amongst the LSU faithful.

Berry opened the eighth with a pop out to right field, but that was the only batter he'd retire in his outing. He walked one, gave up a hit then hit a batter to load the bases. He'd walk another to bring in one run, then gave up a RBI-single to shallow right field for one more.

Fury entered for Berry and hit JSU 2B Stephen Curtis for the inning's third run before striking out two straight to minimize the damage.

LSU did tack on one more insurance run in the bottom of the inning, but Jackson State would rebound with a two-run home run in the ninth to preserve hope. JSU put runners on first and second with only one out before Joey Bourgeois mercifully put an end to the game, inducing a double play.

"Kevin Berry got the first out, and it looked like he was throwing the ball really well. Then all of the sudden, he just lost it," Mainieri said. "Fury came in and I thought he did a really good job, getting us out of the inning…Unfortunately Newman gave up the home run and walked another batter, but Joey came in and did a great job.

"It's never as bad as you think it is…It's ugly the way that it went, but it isn't as bad as you may think it is."

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