Tigers take two of three from Rebels

LSU (21-16-1, 6-8-1 SEC) returned to Southeastern Conference action this weekend as the Tigers hosted No. 13 Ole Miss (25-13, 8-7 SEC) in Alex Box Stadium.

LSU won the series 2-1, winning Friday and Saturday's contests, but could not keep up with the Rebels on Sunday as they escaped Baton Rouge with a lone victory.


Mississippi is coached by former LSU player Mike Bianco. The former Tiger was offered the head coaching job over the summer at LSU, but declined saying his family was happy to live in Oxford.


LSU now leads the overall series with Ole Miss, 156-134, though the Rebels won all four games between the teams last season. Ole Miss swept a three-game series from LSU in Oxford, Miss. before defeating the Tigers in the second round of the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala.


LSU has captured seven of its last nine regular-season series with Ole Miss, and the Tigers have a 15-10 record against the Rebels this decade.




LSU 4 Mississippi 3


LSU was granted a free pass Friday night as they escaped Alex Box Stadium with a 4-3 victory. The bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth was anything but climatic for the struggling Tigers, but coach Paul Mainieri said his squad earned the win.


"That wasn't a cheap win," Mainieri said. "We earned that win tonight. We swung the bats. The kids played hard. We made some great defensive plays. Pitching was outstanding. I thought it was a heck of a team win."


Five scoreless innings preceded LSU's game-winning walk in the bottom of the ninth, while the bull pin assembled perhaps its finest performance of the season under pressure.


Freshman designated hitter Ryan Schimpf was presented with two bases-loaded opportunities in the seventh and the ninth. A hard-hit ball to the short stop ended the inning in the seventh, but Schimpf made the most of his second chance in the ninth, drawing four straight pitches for the 4-3 win. 


"I was pumped," Schimpf said. "Anytime you get a second chance at something I was ready to jump on it."


LSU collected 14 hits on the night, with Jared Mitchell, Sean Ochinko and Nick Pontiff each contributing three hits. The threesome was joined by Blake Dean and Michael Hollander adding two of their own.


Tiger batters left three men on bases to end the contest against Mississippi's ace-reliever, Scott Bittle. Bittle, allowing a run on two hits in 0.2 innings with two walks, including the game-winner to Schimpf.


Mississippi starter Will Kline allowed a season-high 12 hits, allowing three runs in 7.2 innings of work. Kline walked one and struck out seven.


"Our kids battled him hard," said Mainieri. "They played the game the way I'd like to see them play. I was very proud of them."


Charlie Furbush started on the hill for LSU, allowing three runs off 10 hits in 6.1 innings of play. Paul Bertuccini replaced Furbush in the seventh, allowing no hits and no runs in 0.2 innings to close out the seventh.


In the eighth, Sunday starter Jared Bradford worked two innings of relief to help secure the victory, 4-3. Bradford allowed no runs and no hits, and improved his season record to 6-2.


"It feels good, especially against Ole Miss," Ochinko said. "There's always a little rivalry with Ole Miss. It was a fun night to play. The place was real loud. It was just like the old days.


"It was fun to play, and it was great to get a Friday night win."




LSU 8 Mississippi 2


LSU pitching continued its impressive effort on Saturday as the Tigers batted out eight runs for an 8-2 victory over Mississippi.


Sophomore left-hander Ryan Byrd completed a gem Saturday afternoon, earning a complete game win while giving up two runs on seven hits with just three strikeouts. The effort was the first complete game by an LSU pitcher this season and helped claim the Tigers second conference series win.


"I was able to hit my spots on everything and that is the name of the game," said Byrd. "It was a great game all around, a team effort."


Byrd's gem marked the first complete game by a Tiger pitcher since Derik Olvey fired nine innings in a 2-1 loss to South Carolina on April 2, 2006. Byrd became the first LSU pitcher to earn a complete-game SEC win since Clay Dirks defeated Tennessee on May 14, 2005.


"It's a great honor to throw a complete game," said Byrd. "To do it here in front of the home crowd against Ole Miss and to take the series is a big thrill."


At the plate, for the fourth straight game LSU pounded out double-digit hits with 12. Chris Jackson, Mitchell, Dean and Ochinko all earned a pair of hits against the Rebels of Mississippi with Chris McGhee as the lone starter without a hit on Saturday.


The Tigers jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first and never looked back. Jackson started things off with a double down the left-field line that was followed by a perfectly executed bunt by Mitchell to advance Jackson to third. Dean next singled to center-field to score Jackson as the first run of the contest.


Ochinko next grounded out, followed by Schimpf with a hit by pitch that loaded the bases. Robert Lara is then walked, which scores Mitchell from third for the second free run of the series.


Pontiff next grounds out to score Dean on third with McGhee striking out in the next at bat to end the inning, 3-0. 


The Rebels answered back in the third with a solo homerun to right field that was aided by a strong gusting wind.


In the fourth, the Tigers grabbed another run on series of small ball tactics. Pontiff led off the inning with a single to center field. McGhee advanced Pontiff to second on a sacrifice bunt, and stole third on a wild pitch. Hollander next grounded to third, scoring Pontiff for a 4-1 lead.


McGhee reached base in the sixth with a walk and eventually reached home on a Mitchell single to center field. LSU would add three more runs over the next two innings, only to be matched by a single Mississippi run that made the final score 8-2.


"If you were to tell me we would have 14 hits and Jackson would be 0-for-5, I thought you would be kidding me," Mainieri said. "Jackson is such a vital part of the offense.




Mississippi 16 LSU 5


Sunday's contest against Mississippi resembled nothing from their prior meetings earlier in the weekend as the Rebels downed LSU 16-5.


Mississippi batters found the gaps Sunday afternoon as they combined for 15 total hits in their route of the Tigers. Even as the Rebels continued to pull away, LSU coach Paul Mainieri said the outcome didn't represent how close Sunday's game could have been.


"I told the players after the game it is not often you get beat 16-5 and really feel like you could have, or should have won the ball game," Mainieri said. "We make the game 3-2 and I think we have a chance. We bring in Bradford, and I have never seen a kid have so much bad luck. I think Jared just had a lot of bad luck today."


The Tigers extended their hitting streak to five straight games with double digit hits. LSU collected 10 on Sunday, with McGhee, Pontiff, Dean and Ochinko leading the way with each a pair of hits.


The LSU offense had a good day at the plate, but luck seemed to be on Mississippi's side as they slugged toward the gaps the entire evening.


"It's a weird feeling when you get beat by such a big score and you feel with a few breaks and better play that you could have won the ball game," Mainieri said.


McGhee, a sophomore right-fielder from Alexandria, participated with a slew of other teams across the country on Sunday in honoring Jackie Robinson. McGhee wore the No. 42 in honor of Robinson, who broke the color barrier in baseball 60 years ago.


"I really think a lot of the kid and really admire him," Mainieri said of McGhee. "He does some good things. I love the effort he gave. It was a monumental thing in professional sports what [Jackie] Robinson did. Chris McGhee is proud to be an African-American baseball player. He asked me if he could wear No. 42 and I said certainly. Fortunately we had a No. 42 sitting on the shelf."


The Rebels started things off with a three run blast in the second inning to put Mississippi up 3-0. The home run was Even Button's first of the year, which propelled the Rebels into a 16-5 route.


LSU didn't answer until the fourth when Pontiff singled in Lara from second for a 3-1 score. McGhee next slammed a double into left field to score Pontiff, creating a competitive 3-2 ballgame to end the four.


Mississippi in the fifth added four runs on a series of small hits. The Rebels scored a run in the sixth, while LSU managed two runs in the bottom of the inning. Jackson knocked in a pair of Tiger base runners on a single past the second baseman to make the score 8-4, Mississippi. 


Dean would add the final LSU run of the day with a solo home run to right field in the seventh, while the Rebels would add eight more runs to escape the weekend sweep.

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