Tigers drop finale to UCF 5-4

The LSU baseball team was back in action over the weekend when they welcomed the Central Florida Golden Knights to Baton Rouge for their third non-conference series of the season.

LSU won the weekend series 2-1, but a loss on Sunday ended a four-game winning streak.


The Golden Knights committed a series of errors throughout the weekend, especially at third base, while the Tiger bats found rhythm in games one and two.    


The weekend's series marked the teams' first meeting since 2004 when LSU won two of three games over the Golden Knights in Orlando. The Tigers lead the series 13-4 overall, including a 6-1 mark in games played in Alex Box Stadium.




UCF 5, LSU 4


Sunday's game had a different rhythm.


The Tigers entered Sunday's series finale with a 2-0 lead and their goal of a series sweep within reach. The contest began much like Friday's and Saturday's games with LSU scoring early and capitalizing on the errors of UCF.


However, when errors stopped piling up and UCF continued to produce runners, the Tigers slowly watched their lead disappear in a 5-4 loss. LSU has struggled to close out games this season, and Mainieri said it must be fixed.


"It's frustrating to me that we come out so well, and then I don't know if it is that we lose our focus or that they just bring in such great relief pitching," Mainieri said. "When we scored four runs in the first two innings, I said ‘OK, the offense is really on today like yesterday.' And then we let them off the hook."


Kyle Beerbohm started on the mound for LSU, giving up three runs on four hits in four complete innings. Beerbohm left in the fourth inning with a 4-3 lead, but Jared Bradford, who gave up no runs and no hits in two innings of work on Friday, struggled on Sunday and allowed the go-ahead run in the eighth.


Haydel, Mitchell and Ochinko each gathered two hits against the Golden Knights but with no home runs, despite the wind blowing to right-center.


Before the Tigers had the chance to bat, UCF already enjoyed a 2-0 lead over LSU following a series of singles, throwing errors and a stolen base. Haydel started the bottom of the inning with a single to center field, followed by a Mitchell single to right field.


With two on, Dean struck out swinging, but Haydel and Mitchell both advanced on a passed ball.


"I'm just trying to do my best with the opportunity that I was given," said Haydel, who is starting in place of Chris Jackson due to injury. "If Chris [Jackson] comes back and he gets plugged back in and Coach thinks he is playing better, then that is Coach's decision. My job is to fill in for Chris Jackson and try to get LSU to win some ball games."


The next batter, Wise, flied out to right field, but a throwing error allowed Haydel and Mitchell to score, with Mitchell sliding head first at home for the close call. With just a few quick at-bats, the Tigers tied the game, 2-2.


Beerbohm settled down in the second, allowing the LSU bats to take the lead in the bottom of the inning. Hollander reached on a fielding error by the UCF shortstop, with Haydel advancing Hollander to third on a right field single. Mitchell popped up in the next at-bat, but Dean singled to right field for the RBI.


Wise singled up the middle in his at bat, which scored Haydel from third to give LSU a 4-2 lead.   


UCF grabbed one run back in the third with a double followed by a single that turned the score 4-3. After the second inning, the UCF defense settled down by cutting back on errors. The Golden Knights continued to hit the ball well throughout the contest and finally broke back onto the scoreboard in the seventh to tie the game.


They did the same in the eighth and found themselves with a 5-4 lead and only six outs away from victory. The Tigers managed to get a man on second in the eighth and ninth innings, but they could not bring runners home and suffered their first home loss of the season, 5-4.




LSU 13, UCF 6


Saturday's contest saw the LSU bats continue their hitting ways against UCF as they collected 13 runs on 13 hits, scoring in every inning except the third in a 13-6 win. The third inning has been a problem for LSU hitters this season as they have failed to score in the third at home.


A number of Tigers batted against UCF because of the large lead Saturday – a total of 15 players, with Dean leading the way with three hits and three RBIs. Mitchell added two hits, one that hit the Intimidator in right field for his first home run of the season. The blast was worth three runs for the Tigers and opened the game up for non-starters.


"I really think the game today did some things for the team's confidence, especially in the hitting department," Mitchell said. "We swung the bats well and hit the ball hard all day. I think that is going to carry out and go a long way for the team."

Following Saturday's contest, Mainieri said he attributes his squad's success at the plate to their midweek home win against Northwestern State.


"I always felt when I used to coach at Notre Dame, when we went back home we would start hitting better because of midweek games," Mainieri said. "Now the hitters are having more frequent at-bats instead of going from weekend to weekend. The more they play the more at-bats they see, the better their timing is, and they start swinging the bats better."


Clay Dirks started in his first outing of the season, collecting the win while giving up two runs on six hits in six innings of play.


"Clay pitched like we think he is capable of pitching," Mainieri said. "He threw a lot of strikes and kept them off balance. The defense worked for him, and then offensively I think it is coming together."                                                


Dirks had a scare in the first inning after the first out and called for attention from the dugout. What looked to be a blister on his throwing hand from the grandstand turned out to be a bee sting just below his thumb. The stinger had to be removed from Dirks' hand, and he was able to continue through the sixth.


It took four Tiger closers to end the game, including two that entered and struggled in the ninth. Chris Sorce and Paul Bertuccini rolled through the seventh and eighth innings, but Shane Ardoin and Jonathan Wilhite struggled in the final inning.


Ardoin gave up four runs on two hits and grabbed just one out, while Wilhite allowed three hits and no runs but managed to force the final out to end the contest 13-6.




LSU 4, UCF 1


Mistakes were the name of the game in Friday's series opener where the Tigers escaped a close contest 4-1 on the five errors of the Golden Knights.


The Tigers swung often against UCF, earning four runs on 10 hits in the spring weather that engulfed Alex Box. Jared Mitchell, Steven Waguespack and Michael Hollander each collected two hits against the Golden Knights, with Buzzy Haydel hitting the lone RBI for LSU.


Charlie Furbush took the mound for LSU, going seven complete innings and allowing one run on just four hits and seven strikeouts. Jared Bradford finished the game for Furbush, throwing two complete innings while giving up no runs and no hits.


"I pitched well," said Furbush. "I got in a rhythm from the get-go. It was kind of hard last weekend because I could never get in a groove."


Mitchell entered Friday's contest swinging 5-for-10 in LSU's last two games with one RBI and two runs scored. In the first inning, Mitchell got things rolling with a single through the right side that advanced Haydel to second after he reached on a walk. The next two batters were retired, but Mitchell had already set the tempo for the day and the weekend.


LSU jumped onto the scoreboard first on a series of singles across the infield. In the bottom of the second, J.T. Wise started the inning with a lead-off single through the left side. Robert Lara next struck out swinging, followed with a Waguespack single up the middle. Michael Hollander then reached on a fielder's error by the third baseman that scored Wise for the first run of the night.


Haydel struck out looking for the second out of the inning, which was followed up with Mitchell reaching on a fielder's choice that ended the inning 1-0.


Later in the fifth, Eric Kallstrom of UCF blasted onto the scoreboard with a left field home run to lead off the inning.


The Tigers answered back in the bottom of the fifth inning, which was started on a left field double by Hollander. Haydel grounded out and advanced Hollander to third, but Hollander was called out trying to steal home.


Back-to-back singles by Mitchell and Dean put runners on the corners, forcing UCF to make a pitching change. Ochinko then reached on a fielding error by the third baseman that scored Mitchell from third, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead.  


"I expected this to be a low-scoring, tight ballgame," said Mainieri. "We were facing their No. 1 starter. He threw it hard enough to make it a challenge. In the opening game of a series, you have to assume you are going to face a good pitcher, and the runs are going to be hard to come by."


In the eighth, LSU finished off the Golden Knights with two runs on the advantage of two UCF errors. Wise and Lara both grounded out to begin the inning, but Waguespack doubled to left-center to keep the inning alive.


Hollander then reached on another error by the third baseman, and Waguespack scored from second. Hollander stole second just before Haydel singled up the middle for the RBI. Chris McGehee later popped up to end the inning, producing the final 4-1 score.

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