Laird delivers another walk-off

Mark Laird came through with his second walk-off hit of the season to give No. 6 LSU a 8-7 victory int he series opener with Tennessee. The Tigers scored a run in each of the final three innings to rally for the win.

Mark Laird delivered a déjà vu walk-off single Friday to give No. 6 LSU an 8-7 victory in the series opener with Tennessee.

That was Laird's second game-winning hit this season, and this one set up in a similar fashion to the first. With the game tied 7-7 entering the bottom of the ninth, Tyler Moore walked on four pitches to start the frame. A Christian Ibarra sacrifice bunt advanced pinch-runner Jared Foster into scoring position.

After a Kramer Robertson strikeout, the Vols intentionally walked Andrew Stevenson — who was 3-for-5 on the night — to get to Laird. That's what happened two weeks ago against Arkansas, as the Razorbacks gave Sean McMullen a free pass before Laird won it.

Friday featured the same result as Mark Laird laced a full-count fastball up the middle for the game-winning hit.

"It makes me want to get a hit even more," said Laird of having the batter in front of him intentionally walked. "When I saw them pitch around him, I just got in the zone…I was ready to hit, and it worked out for me."

Laird's walk-off capped a late rally for the Tigers as they scored a run in each of the final three innings to overcome a two-run deficit.

"Ho-hum, just another night in the SEC," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "Heck of a way to make a living, isn't it?"

After Tennessee jumped ahead 7-5 with a four-run sixth inning, LSU managed to cut that lead in half with a run in the seventh. Jake Fraley singled to start that inning and eventually came around to score on a fielder's choice by Kramer Robertson.

Fraley tied it in the next frame as all the offense came with two outs. Sean McMullen kicked it off with a single past the diving glove of Vols 1B Nathaniel Maggio. He stole second to set the stage for Fraley, who delivered the game-tying run with a double to left-center field.

Those clutch hits have become common for the freshman from Delaware, as he's delivered a late game-tying or go-ahead hit in three SEC contests.

"It's just a matter of staying mentally strong and slowing the game down," Fraley said. "

From there, Mainieri opted to turn to his closer to maintain the tied game in the ninth. Joe Broussard entered for Kurt McCune — who worked around a leadoff single in a scoreless eighth — and gave Tennessee little opportunity to pull back ahead.

Joe Broussard struck out the side in the ninth
Broussard struck out the side, retiring the final batter of the inning with a 96 mph fastball.

"Anytime I go out there, it's just my job to get some outs and give the offense a chance," Broussard said. "I went out there and tried to get three outs before they scored any runs and that transitioned into a win for the team."

LSU's come-from-behind victory granted a no decision to Aaron Nola, who was far from his usually dominant self.

Tennessee struck early with a pair of runs in the first inning. Those were the first opening frame runs Nola had surrendered since last year's NCAA Regional, and the first time he'd allowed multiple runs in any inning this season.

Three of the first four Tennessee batters recorded hits, including a RBI-single by Christin Stewart and a RBI-double by Scott Price. Nola managed to escape that jam without more damage though as he stranded a pair in scoring position.

Tennessee would leave a runner on third base in each of the next three innings as well.

"Aaron just wasn't on top of his game," Mainieri said. "But after giving up the two runs, he hangs in there and keeps his team in the game, and we were able to come back and get the lead."

That kept things close for the Tigers, as they'd eventually give Nola the lead with a five-run fourth inning.

LSU had six hits in that inning, including four doubles. Tyler Moore drove in one with a double down the right field line, and Kramer Robertson added another with one to left. Stevenson plated a pair with a two-bagger to right-center field, and Alex Bregman made it five with a two-out single up the middle.

"We've been swinging the bats better," Mainieri said. "It's been coming, and we had a good approach up there. We came through with some clutch ones."

That 5-2 lead wouldn't hold long as Tennessee jumped back in front with a four-run sixth.

Aaron Nola proved to be human Friday, surrendering five earned runs
Nola surrendered a leadoff single, and a sacrifice bunt moved that runner into scoring position. After a pop fly to left for the inning's second out, Nola gave up a RBI-single to Will Maddox before walking A.J. Simcox, the final batter he'd face.

Zac Person entered and gave up an infield single on his first pitch, loading the bases. Pinch-hitter Derek Lance cleared them with a three-run double to left-center field.

Two of those runs were credited to Nola, giving him five allowed on the night, the highest total since his first SEC start two seasons ago.

"I was having trouble with all my pitches honestly," Nola said. "I was getting behind in counts, and my two-strike pitch wasn't there. They scattered hits around the field and put pressure on me, but our hitters backed me up."

Tennessee would tack on one more run off Person in the seventh to make it 7-5 at the stretch before LSU's comeback.

Coupled with an Alabama loss to South Carolina, LSU finds itself a half-game out of first place in the SEC West. Jared Poché will take the mound Saturday at 6:30 p.m. with hopes of clinching the Tigers' fourth straight series victory.

"The game of baseball is going to come around to bite you back in the butt if you don't stay humble," Fraley said. "We just got to make sure we take it game-by-game."


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