You ever been cruising along the highway at a nice clip, smooth road and then …
Yeah, well, the No. 3-ranked LSU baseball team knows the feeling.
The Tigers absorbed their first loss of the season on Tuesday, 11-8 at New Orleans, and it had the feel of a tire blowing out at 75 mph.
LSU (3-1) was up 6-1 heading into the bottom of the 4th inning after Kramer Robertson slipped a solo homer down the left-field line – the Tigers’ third bomb of the game.
The Privateers, limited to two hits in the first 4 innings by Tigers’ sophomore Caleb Gilbert, flipped the game around at that point.
Freshman Hunter Kiel took over on the mound and staggered through a totally forgettable debut as he allowed four hits to the six batters he faced and UNO (4-0) was off and running.
It wasn’t just Kiel, though. Veterans Collin Strall and Russell Reynolds also scuffled as the Privateers reeled off a six-run 5th and followed with a four-run 6th to storm in front 11-6.
During the 10-hit, 10-run onslaught, UNO peppered LSU pitching for seven extra-base hits with Samuel Capielano (3B, RBI 1B) and Tristan Clarke (2B, solo home run) and Owen Magee (2 hits, 4 RBIs) leading the charge.
“UNO is an aggressive, hard-hitting team, and when we made mistakes, they took advantage of them,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “For those 2 innings, some of our relievers had a rough time and we just couldn’t stop them.”
Doug Norman and Austin Bain finally stopped the bleeding and combined for 2.2 shutout frames, but the damage was done.
The Tigers generated a chance to respond in the 7th inning when Antoine Duplantis poked a single up the middle, Robertson reached on an error and Jake Slaughter loaded the bases with a two-out base hit. But UNO reliever William Griffin wiggled out of the jam when he coaxed Josh Smith into a fly ball to center field.
LSU staged a last-gasp threat in the 9th inning as well against Privateers’ closer Jarred Taylor.
Robertson rammed a leadoff double to right-center field and with one out, Slaughter rolled an RBI single through the middle to pull the Tigers within 11-8. Smith joined Slaughter on base when he yanked a single through the right side, but Taylor extinguished the fire by inducing a 5-4-3 double play against Nick Coomes.
Before the UNO eruption, the Tigers seemed to be in cruise control. Bryce Adams and Brennan Breaux touched up Privateers’ starter Reeves Martin for back-to-back solo home runs in the 2nd inning and the show just seemed to be starting.
Execution replaced power in the 3rd when Duplantis – who was 3-for-5 after a hitless opening weekend – led off with a double, Robertson’s grounder to the pitcher moved him to third and Greg Deichmann drive in his 6th run this season with a sacrifice fly.
Two more runs came home in the 4th when Adams and Breaux each collected a second RBI with a sac fly and single, respectively. Robertson’s homer the next inning extended LSU’s lead to 6-1.
That was the end of the good news on this night for the Tigers, though, on a night when Maestri Field was buzzing with a packed house.
“We are not going to take this win lightly,” said UNO coach and former LSU All-American Blake Dean.
"They are the top team in the state of Louisiana. That is their identity that is what everyone knows them as. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't happy we beat LSU. That place holds a special place in my heart.”
Besides Duplantis’ big night, Robertson, Adams and Breaux each collected a pair of hits to anchor a 13-hit performance.
There won’t be a lot of time for LSU to ponder its first loss. The Tigers jump right back into action at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday when Hofstra (0-3) visits Alex Box Stadium. Zack Hess will get the ball for his first career start.