SEC baseball opening night. The expectation is lockdown pitching and intensity until the last out.
Then there was Friday night between No. 6/7-ranked LSU and Georgia.
Instead of anything resembling a pitchers’ duel, the Tigers and Bulldogs went back-and-forth in a game of anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better at Alex Box Stadium.
Turned out LSU had a lot more ammunition and a knack for taking advantage of what the Bulldogs were willing to hand them.
Sparked Antoine Duplantis’ record-setting 6-for-6, 7-RBI, 4-run night and Kramer Robertson’s 5-for-5 with 3 doubles and 5 runs scored, the Tigers shrugged off an early four-run deficit and pummeled Georgia 22-9.
LSU (14-5, 1-0 SEC) peppered the Bulldogs for 22 hits, with every starter except Josh Smith accounting for at least one and all nine starters chasing in at least one run.
Georgia burned through six pitchers to try and quell the persistent Tigers’ onslaught and none had much success. It wasn’t until the 7th inning that LSU failed to score a run in an at-bat and that came after a 7-run 6th that removed any drama.
While the win became breathe-easy in nature, there was cause for concern after starting pitcher Alex Lange again stumbled through a rough outing, his second in the last three.
The reason LSU spent the early innings in comeback mode was because Lane was ragged almost from the get-go and struggled to get ahead of most batters.
Georgia touched up Lange for four runs in the 1st, with Cam Shephard slamming an RBI double to center field for the first and Will Campbell depositing a fastball into the left-field bleachers with two outs for the big blow.
Staring at a stunning 4-0 lead, the Tigers didn’t flinch.
Robertson pounded his first double into right-center field on Andrew Gist’s third pitch and moved to third on Cole Freeman’s bunt. Duplantis set a tone when he zapped the first offering he saw to off of Gist’s glove for a run, and he came home four batters later on Smith’s gritty two-out full-count bases-loaded walk.
The walk was also emblematic of the night for Georgia: The six-pack of Bulldogs’ hurlers issued eight walks and hit five other batters, a trend that quickly started to burn the visitors.
Although LSU only cut the lead in half in the 1st frame, it was clear Gist wasn’t a long term-solution and the Tigers ended his night in the 2nd.
Mike Papierski slapped a leadoff single to left, Robertson walked and Freeman jacked a run-scoring double to left field after a strike-two call when he squared to bunt.
Duplantis took a handful of pitches in his second trip to the plate before legging out another infield single that scored Robertson and evened the score 4-4. Greg Deichmann lofted a sacrifice fly to left field to put LSU on top 5-4 and Zach Watson added the first piece to his 3-for-6 night with a double to center field.
From there, the night was basically a matter of the Bulldogs (8-11, 0-1) handing the Tigers repeated chances with the walks and hit batters and LSU seizing on seemingly every one.
Instead of a bunch of big blows, the Tigers killed Georgia a little at time with 14 hits with runners in scoring position accounting for 20 RBIs.
Meanwhile, after the Bulldogs chased Lange, Austin Bain and a pair of freshmen relievers came on and quieted Georgia’s offense down very effectively.
The Bulldogs clawed back within 9-8 against Lange in the 5th inning when Michael Curry rifled a two-run double and Campbell dropped a single to center field to send Lange to the showers.
Bain entered, allowed a base hit to put the go-ahead run on base and then retired the next two hitters to maintain LSU’s lead.
The Tigers answered with four runs in their half of the frame to push the lead to 13-8 and Bain did what Lange couldn’t do: Challenged batters with a comfortable lead and won most of those battles.
Georgia got to the junior for one run in 2.2 innings, but his stop-the-bleeding performance was massive considering that the Tigers lost closer Hunter Newman to a back injury earlier in the week and are operating with a bullpen that has struggled.
Matthew Beck and Will Reese finished up with a perfect inning apiece sandwiched the only remaining interest for LSU in the bottom of the 8th inning.
In cruise control with a 20-9 lead, the Tigers stirred up one more rally when pinch-hitter Rankin Woley got a leadoff single and Robertson pumped a base hit to left field to set the table for Duplantis.
After a one-out wild pitch gave the sophomore left fielder two runners to chase home, Duplantis ripped a sweet-swing double to left field to set a school record with 6 hits and tack on his 6th and 7th RBIs.
The series resumes at 6:30 p.m. Saturday when Jared Poche (4-0, 0.00 ERA) takes the mound against Georgia freshman Tony Locey (2-2, 7.47).
BOX SCORE | LSU 22, Georgia 9