LSU did it with a big offensive outburst in the middle innings against Missouri. LSU struck for four runs to overcome a 2-0 deficit and never trailed from there. LSU finished with 11 hits, stole eight bases and took advantage of four Missouri errors.
Coupled with losses by both Texas A&M and Vanderbilt, No. 1 LSU has sole possession of first place in the conference. The Tigers are a game ahead of A&M in the SEC West, and hold a better winning percentage than Vanderbilt with two fewer games played.
Trailing by two, LSU was still looking for its first hit of the game with one out in the third. Up came Danny Zardon, who was starting in place of an academically ineligible Jared Foster. He crushed a solo home run into the left field bleachers to cut the Missouri lead in half.
Missouri starter Reggie McClain walked the next two batters he faced, and LSU strung together three straight hits, an RBI each for Alex Bregman, Conner Hale and Kade Scivicque to make it 4-2.
“Our first time through the lineup, we swung at a lot of bad pitches,” Mainieri said. “The second time, we were more disciplined. We got some good pitches to hit and were able to put some good swings on the ball.”
LSU got a run in each of the next two innings — an RBI each to Bregman and Scivicque — to provide a comfortable margin.
“We just had to get the ball when it was up in the zone,” Bregman said of the team’s improvement offensively as the game progressed. “We did a good job after that.”
LSU didn’t get a strong outing from starting pitcher Jared Poché, needing a big performance from the bullpen to hold off Missouri.
Poché lasted only 3 2/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. He gave up seven hits, three of which were doubles, and a pair of runs. Missouri would get three hits off him in the fourth, two coming with two outs to chase him from the game.
“Jared Poché was not as sharp as he usually is,” Mainieri said. “His stuff was a little flat.”
But Doug Norman had his back. He retired seven of the eight batters he faced for his longest outing since April 2 against Alabama. Jake Godfrey followed that with two more scoreless innings, striking out four, his highest total since moving to the bullpen.
Alden Cartwright closed it out in the ninth, his first appearance it an SEC game since April 11.
“The bullpen did a tremendous job,” Mainieri said. “Doug Norman was fantastic. Jake Godfrey was fantastic, and Alden Cartwright finished it up. Jared will be better next week.”
LSU will try to clinch the series Saturday night. First pitch is set for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be shown on the SEC Network. Alex Lange takes the mound, looking to remain undefeated on the season.