One step closer

The win did not come as easily as last weekend's 15-6 opener against Mississippi State, but LSU did just enough to hold off the SEC's other Tigers, 6-4 at Plainsman Park.

Auburn (28-25, 11-16 SEC) traded blows with LSU (37-16-1, 16-11-1 SEC) for the first seven innings, but was held in check by senior reliever Jared Bradford in the eighth and ninth. The senior right-hander earned the save over three innings of work, allowing one run on four hits with two strike outs.

Ryan Verdugo (8-2) got the start for LSU, pitching 5 and 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits with six strikeouts. Grant Dayton (7-2) was charged with the loss as he surrendered six runs on 13 hits in seven innings with no walks and seven strikeouts.

As has been the trend recently, Auburn took the early lead off back-to-back doubles by Mike Bianucci and Joseph Sanders that put the Tigers up 1-0 in the second inning.

The Tigers of the purple and gold variety struck back in the fourth inning.

Center fielder Jared Mitchell opened the inning with a leadoff double and advanced to third on one of the two errors Bianucci committed in right field. A double by catcher Micah Gibbs scored Mitchell to tie the score at 1-1, and yet another double by shortstop DJ LeMahieu scored Gibbs for a 2-1 LSU lead.

LSU extended the lead in the top of the sixth inning, once again thanks to LeMahieu.

The freshman shortstop doubled to left field, scoring Blake Dean from first base. A base hit by Matt Clark brought LeMahieu home for a 4-1 lead.

Auburn responded immediately as Sanders added his second RBI of the night with a solo home run to start the bottom of the sixth. A double by Kevin Patterson ended Verdugo’s night, and Paul Bertuccini did not fare much better in his 1/3 of an inning of work. Auburn catcher Ryan Jenkins doubled off the Tigers’ reliever, scoring Patterson and cutting the lead to 4-3.

The two Tiger teams traded blows again in the seventh inning.

LSU right fielder Derek Helenihi singled to score Michael Hollander, bolstering the lead at 5-3, only to have Sanders strike back for Auburn, singling to right field to score Brian Fletcher for a 5-4 scoreline.

The LSU offense came through again in the eighth as Dean opened the inning with a double and was replaced by pinch runner Johnny Dishon. A pair of base hits by LeMahieu and Clark scored Dishon for the final 6-4 advantage.

Bradford had to get out of a bases-loaded jam in the eighth and after putting two Auburn batters away in the ninth, the tying run came up to the plate after a walk.

The clutch performer, however, forced a groundout to get the win and move LSU one step closer to a division crown.

“Our team continues to play with great confidence while getting clutch hits and making big pitches,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Tonight was another great ball game where we made some big plays at crucial times.”

Notes:

  • Game two of the series is at 6 p.m. on Friday.
  • Junior left-hander Blake Martin (4-3) will take the mound for LSU against sophomore right-hander Taylor Thompson (3-5).
  • LSU is in first place in the SEC Western Division, two games ahead of Alabama, which was idle Thursday after its game at Georgia was rained out.
  • The Tigers would clinch the division title with a win over Auburn tonight or if Alabama loses one of its two games today against Georgia.
  • With Thursday’s victory, LSU captured its 14th straight victory, extending the nation’s longest current win streak.

 

  • The 14-game winning streak is the longest by an LSU team since the 1997 club won 19 in a row to start the season.

 

  • The Tigers have won 10 consecutive SEC games, LSU’s longest league streak since the 1991 squad won 11 straight conference outings.

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