LSU bested by Auburn ace, loses 6-1 Saturday

LSU was no match for Auburn's best pitcher Saturday, managing just six hits in a 6-1 loss to even the series.

Elite pitcher met elite offense Saturday in Alex Box Stadium, and the round went to the former.

LSU had no answer for Auburn starter Keegan Thompson, who threw a complete game while limiting the SEC’s best offense to six hits. Thompson also earned the win as LSU fell 6-1 to even the series.

LSU had few scoring opportunities, with the only run coming on a solo homer by Andrew Stevenson in the eighth. Even on the rare occurrences LSU did have a shot to score, they struggled to come through.

LSU went just 1-for-9 with runners on, 1-for-5 when they were in scoring position and 1-for-10 with two outs.

“Tonight we’re going to tip our hat to their pitcher,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “He was everything as advertised…He’s the total package. He’s certainly one of the best pitchers in our conference, if not the country.”

Thompson went right at the LSU hitters all night, pitching to contact and letting his defense make plays.

LSU’s biggest threat against him came in the first inning. Jake Fraley and Alex Bregman had hits in two of LSU’s first three at-bats, putting a pair in scoring position with one out. Thompson struck out Conner Hale and induced a weak groundout from Kade Scivicque to end the inning.

“When you’re going to face a pitcher as good as that kid, you’re not going to get many scoring opportunities,” Mainieri said. “You’ve got to take advantage of them, and unfortunately we did not.”

LSU got only two hits through the next six innings, with Thompson retiring 10 straight at point.

“He had control of every pitch he had,” said Jared Foster, who had two of LSU’s six hits. “He made it tough on us.”

That hitless streak did eventually come to an end when Stevenson deposited a solo home run into the right field bleachers. It was too little, too late at that point, as Auburn had already done plenty enough damage against LSU’s pitching staff.

Austin Bain made his first career start and surrendered 4 runs in 5 1/3 innings.

Auburn got to him for a run in the third on an RBI-double by Anfernee Grier. He brought in another two innings later with a run-scoring triple to right. That was his fourth extra-base hit of the series.

“He’s clearly one of the best players in the league,” Mainieri said of Grier. “We just couldn’t get him out.”

Bain still managed to keep LSU within shouting distance until a big Auburn inning in the sixth.

He surrendered consecutive singles to start the inning, and a sacrifice bunt put both runners in scoring position. Bain exited the game after that, but his replacement, Alden Cartwright, gave up a pair of hits, allowing three runs to score — two of which were credited to Bain.

“I felt like I did good, but there were some times that I missed spots,” Bain said. “They just had a really good pitcher out there, that did his job right…Pitching in the SEC is a battle, no matter who you’re facing.”

Auburn tacked on one more insurance run off Russell Reynolds with a walk and two hits in the ninth. That made it 6-1 entering the final at-bat for LSU.

The home team failed to come through, managing only a two-out walk, Thompson’s only one of the game. Chris Chinea grounded into a fielder’s choice to seal the loss, snapping LSU’s seven-game winning streak.

LSU will try to salvage the series Sunday with first pitch scheduled for 1 p.m. Forecasts call for rain throughout the day, but Mainieri said after the game they hadn’t altered the start time.

Mainieri also did not announce a starting pitcher. LSU moved Jake Godfrey out of the weekend rotation last week, and Alex Lange sat out this weekend with arm fatigue.

“We’re not going to start a pitcher and expect more than two or three innings out of that guy,” Mainieri said. “I’m not sure who the first guy will be, but there will be a handful of pitchers on the mound tomorrow.”

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