The Tigers took advantage of a seven-run frame to clinch the series with an 8-5 victory at Alex Box Stadium. LSU sent 13 batters to the plate that inning and totaled seven hits — five singles — to blow open what was only a one-run lead to start the fifth.
Kramer Robertson got it all going with a single up the middle on a full count. Alex Bregman singled two batters later, and Conner Hale drove them both in with a double down the left field line. Kansas also did its part, as a wild pitch and passed ball brought Hale in from second for another run.
Chris Chinea and Kade Scivicque drew consecutive walks to set up Andrew Stevenson and Jared Foster, who each brought in a run.
Danny Zardon followed that with his first hit of the season, a two-run single to center field, giving the Tigers an 8-0 lead after five innings.
“It’s good to get some hits and help out the team,” said Foster, who replaced Jake Fraley in left field Saturday. “Just go up there with a good attitude and have some fun.”
Paul Mainieri wanted to see more offense from his team after a six-hit effort Friday night. While that big fifth inning satisfied some of those desires, he’d still like more, with LSU totaling just four hits and one run outside that big outburst.
“As a team, there’s a lot of improvement we can make,” Mainieri said. “We’ve only scored in four innings out of 16…Other than that, we haven’t done very well offensively. We’ve made a lot of easy outs, and if we truly want to be known as a really good offensive team, we’re going to have to be tougher outs on a consistent basis.”
LSU’s lead wasn’t safe though, as the Tiger bullpen made it closer than expected.
Freshman Alex Lange exited after five innings, surrendering just two hits and seven strikeouts in a shutout effort. But Kyle Bouman replaced him to start the sixth and things started to unravel from there.
Bouman gave up hits to two of the first three batters he faced. A sacrifice fly brought in one run in the sixth, before the Jayhawks got three more off Bouman in the seventh.
Bouman walked the leadoff man that inning, then surrendered a single to DH Marcus Wheeler. 3B Tommy Mirabelli punished him with a three-run homer to right field.
Alden Cartwright replaced Bouman after the bomb, surrendered a double to the first batter he faced but retired three straight to put an end to the rally.
“They were able to get back in the ballgame,” Mainieri said. “But Cartwright came in and really did a terrific job to stop the bleeding.”
Freshman Austin Bain made his debut in the eighth, clinging to a four-run lead. He too got touched up a bit, surrendering consecutive extra base hits that made it 8-5 with one out. He battled back though and got a grounder and strikeout to end the inning.
Mainieri stuck with him to start the ninth, despite having double barrel action going in the bullpen. Bain surrendered a leadoff single and walked the next batter to put two on with nobody out. 2B Colby Wright grounded into a fielder’s choice, and Ryan Pidhaichuk popped out.
A wild pitch moved the two runners into scoring position with the tying run at the plate, but Bain induced a grounder to short to seal the win.
“The kid showed an awful lot of poise,” Mainieri said of Bain. “You’ve got to let these kids go through this. It’s hard on the coach’s stomach. My heart was beating pretty fast, but these are the experiences these kids have to get, so they can be good at them later on.”
LSU will try to complete the sweep Sunday at 1 p.m. The Tigers will trot out another freshman to the mound in Jake Godfrey, as he’ll aim for as impressive a debut as Lange.
“It was probably a good thing for us,” Mainieri said of Kansas making it close late. “Kansas doesn’t quit. They’ve got a lot of price, and they’ll fight you every step of the way…If we want to sweep this series, we’re going to have to come out and play really well, because they’re not going to give it to us.”