Tigers drop finale, series to Tennessee

LSU returned to Alex Box Friday afternoon for conference play as they hosted Tennessee (25-19, SEC 7-11) for a weekend series. The Volunteers took 2-of-3 from LSU after dropping Saturday's mid-series contest 4-2.

Tennessee won Friday's series opener 7-1 on the arm of James Adkins and his complete game performance. On Saturday, LSU pitching answered back with a Jared Bradford complete game. Sunday's rubber match was likely the most entertaining game of the weekend, as the Tigers roared back in the fifth with six runs to later drop the game 10-9 in 10 innings.

 

LSU still leads the overall series 43-16.

 

 

Sunday

Tennessee 10 LSU 9

 

Pitching again Sunday was the key to victory. Tennessee's Jeff Lockwood took the mound for the Volunteers in Sunday's rubber-match. The freshman left-hander threw well against the Tigers, while LSU starter Ryan Byrd struggled through 2.2 innings of play.

 

"It was a pretty ugly baseball game I thought," Mainieri said. "Just a poorly played game. Not only in the things fans can see but also in the nuances that fans can't see. Missing sings and things like that. I can't speak for Tennessee. Maybe there coach thought they played well, but my team didn't play very well."

 

On Saturday, Lockwood served as the Volunteers designated batter, hitting 4-for-4 with a run and a RBI.

 

For the Tigers, Byrd gave up five runs on six hits and was relieved by T.J. Forrest in the third inning. Forrest lasted two innings before giving up the reigns to Nolan Cain. Forrest allowed two runs off three hits with one strikeout.

 

Cain entered in the fifth, adding stability to the stumbling Tigers.

 

With the lack of a stable pitcher, Tennessee quickly jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second. In the bottom half of the inning, the Tigers answered back with a Sean Ochinko home run to left field.  Down 2-1, Tennessee added three runs in Byrd's final inning of play to advance their lead 5-1.

 

In the bottom of the third, Jackson got things started with a double down the right field line. Hollander next singled to the shortstop to send Jackson to third with one out. Dean flied out to right field, but Jackson was able to score, cutting at the Tigers deficit to 5-2.

 

The Volunteers scored single runs in both of their next innings, improving their lead to 7-2. In the bottom of the fifth however, luck would turn toward the Tigers as the produced six runs to take an 8-7 lead, their first lead of the day.

 

"I thought Tennessee gave us all those runs," Mainieri said. "We really didn't do anything to earn them. They basically gave them to us. It appeared they wanted to give us the game but we didn't want it bad enough to take it."

 

Two consecutive Tennessee errors helped LSU advance runs, including three consecutive walks to begin the inning. Everything fell into place in the fifth for LSU as they exited the inning with the lead.

 

Cain shut down the Volunteers through the sixth and seventh innings, giving up no runs off three hits for LSU.

 

Shane Ardoin entered to start the eighth, but quickly exited after giving up one run off two hits with no outs. Paul Bertuccini then entered in relief to close out the inning with two strikeouts to end the inning with the bases loaded.

 

No runs were scored in the bottom of the eight or the ninth, but Tennessee broke the 8-8 tie with a single through the right field that scored two runs for a 10-8 Tennessee lead.

 

Down two runs in the bottom of the 10th, Mitchell slammed a home run over the left field wall to continue LSU's hope of victory. Wise next struck out swinging, but Pontiff reached on a single to left field. McGee and Waguespack forced the next two outs of the game with a strikeout and a groundout, ending the game 10-9 in the 10th.  

 

"I knew we were not out of it," Ochinko said. "We have played great ball. Have done well in the SEC these last four weekends. In the beginning we ended up taking the lead, but it was really tough not getting the win after playing for four and a half hours."

 

 

Saturday

LSU 4, Tennessee 2

 

On Saturday, Mainieri's comment from the night before became that much more true when the Tigers sent out there best pitcher in Jared Bradford for a complete game win.

 

The junior right-hander threw for nine complete innings, giving up two runs on nine hits with eight strikeouts and an amazing no walks. Bradford dominated on the mound Saturday, not even 24 hours following James Adkins complete game win for Tennessee the night before.

 

"That's how you define a stopper," said Mainieri. "He stops losing streaks. That's what aces do. That's what your most valuable pitcher is supposed to do. I felt like today was a must win."

 

The effort was Bradford's first career complete game. He is now tied for second in the Southeastern Conference in wins, trailing only Arkansas' Nick Schmidt. The Hueytown, Ala. native is the only hurler in the league to tally five saves with his victories, ranking second in that category as well.

 

Saturday's contest was LSU's second complete game this season. Byrd, who was slated to start Saturday's contest when Mainieri left Alex Box the night before, threw the Tigers' other one in an 8-2 victory over No. 13 Ole Miss exactly two weeks ago.

 

"I've been coaching for 25 years, and he is quickly becoming one of my all-time greats," said Mainieri. "He's something. I've run out of superlatives to say about the kid. The only thing he lacks is an overpowering velocity fastball, but he's got every other intangible that you want out of a pitcher plus he's a wonderful human being."

 

On Saturday, the LSU bats awoke collecting 10 hits against the Volunteers of Tennessee. The top of the order gathered the majority of hits against Tennessee pitchers Craig Cobb and Nick Hernandez. Sean Ochinko, Jackson, Hollander and Dean each scattered two hits on the day with Hollander earning three.

 

Only Robert Lara at the bottom of the lineup added an additional hit.

 

"I took (Dean) out of the game last night because I didn't want to see anything else happen to him," said Mainieri. "He had to be a little shook up last night, but he wasn't shy at all. That kid's a winner too. He is to our offense what Bradford is to our pitching staff."

 

LSU jumped onto the board in the first inning with a lone run. Hollander singled to right field following a Jackson pop up. Dean next singled through the right side to advance Hollander, with Mitchell flying out in the next at bat. With two outs, Ochinko doubled down the left field line to score Hollander from second for the RBI.

 

Nicholas Pontiff ended the inning following a Ryan Schimpf walk on a fielder's choice out.

LSU was scoreless in the second, but jumped onto the scoreboard again in the third on a two run blast by Dean. Hollander singled to the shortstop to begin the inning, and Dean homered to right field for the two-run shot that put the Tigers up 3-0.

 

Tennessee answered in the top of the fourth with their only two runs of the day. In the bottom half of the fourth, LSU added their final run of the day off a series of hits.

 

Jackson singled to center field to begin the inning, followed by a Hollander bunt. Dean struck out looking, but Mitchell reached on a fielding error by the Volunteer shortstop. Jackson scored on the error, producing the final 4-2, score.   

 

 

Friday

Tennessee 7, LSU 1

 

Friday's series opener against Tennessee was a tale of two pitchers according to LSU coach Paul Mainieri. The Volunteers had a great one, the home town Tigers did not.

 

After nine innings of play, Tennessee left-hander James Adkins tossed a complete game three-hitter as the Vols defeated LSU, 7-1, at Alex Box Stadium.

 

"We couldn't touch him," said Mainieri. "He had a great breaking ball. He just totally dominated the game."

 

Adkins (5-6) was unstoppable and provided the second straight complete game by an opposing pitcher in as many series openers. The junior limited the Tigers to three hits and a run while walking one, topping his 2005 performance where he lasted only two innings in Alex Box, giving up seven runs.

 

Adkins ranked 10th nationally in strikeouts per game before Friday's contest. He fanned a season-high 14 batters and became the Volunteer's career strikeout leader with 350 Ks, surpassing R.A. Dickey's previous mark of 345.

 

"He was really on tonight," senior Chris Jackson said. "You tip your hat to him because he did a great job. You just have to come out tomorrow with a little better focus. We didn't get good at bats against him and he was throwing his pitches for strikes."

 

Charlie Furbush started on the mound for LSU, but was done in the third inning where he gave up five runs on six hits with two walks and no strike outs.

 

Furbush made it through the first two innings with good defensive play. Hard balls were clocked around the outfield of Alex Box, making it a hard day's work for outfielders Jason Lewis and Mitchell.

 

Hard hits however caught up to Furbush in the third, and were replaced by sophomore right-hander Louis Coleman. The Schlater, Miss. native supplied the only positive for the team according to Mainieri, throwing 4.2 innings and giving up no runs on three hits with three strikeouts.

 

Matt Jackson relieved Coleman to begin the eighth, giving up one run, while Nolan Cain finished the contest in the ninth wit the final two outs for the 7-1, Tennessee win.

 

If not for a disastrous six-run third inning, Mainieri said his Tigers could have played competitive.

 

"We should have really gotten out of the inning only giving up two runs," said Mainieri. "We had a double-play ball that would have ended the inning and four runs scored after that. We dug ourselves such a big hole, and going up against a pitcher like that is really difficult."

 

Just three LSU players were able to touch Adkins, with Blake Dean, Michael Hollander and Jared Mitchell each reaching base. Dean's hit turned into a blast over the scoreboard in right field for the lone run of the night, while Mitchell and Hollander managed a pair of singles.


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