LSU designated hitter Blake Dean played the hero for the Tigers, winning the game with his 17th home run of the season.
With one out in the 10th inning, Dean blasted a solo homerun over the right field wall and gave the Tigers the 5-4 victory.
“We started out sluggish,” Dean said. “It wasn’t like usual, but we believe in each other. We know that if one person doesn’t get it done, then the one coming behind him will. Coach (Mainieri) always tells us to play the full game. So we played all nine innings. We kept battling and battling.”
With just two hits entering the ninth inning, the Tigers’ offense capitalized on several South Carolina mistakes to tie the score at 4-4.
South Carolina (37-20, 15-16 SEC) reliever Will Atwood opened the ninth inning with two walks, and LSU’s Matt Clark made him pay for it.
With one out Clark ripped a home run deep to right-center field, scoring Blake Dean and Micah Gibbs and cutting the score to 4-3.
South Carolina reliever Brandon Todd responded by walking DJ LeMahieu for yet another LSU base runner, and Ryan Schimpf came to the plate as the game’s final out.
Schimpf popped up a seemingly foul ball to left field, and was just as stunned as left fielder Andrew Crisp when it landed fair and scored LeMahieu. While it seemed that LSU’s winning streak was at an end, the score was now tied at 4-4.
“The story of the game is that Clark came through with the big hit and Blake Dean did too,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “We really stole one today.”
The majority of the game was an outstanding pitching duel between LSU’s Ryan Verdugo (8-2) and South Carolina freshman Sam Dyson (7-0).
Verdugo pitched six complete innings for the Tigers, allowing three runs on four hits and striking out 10 batters while walking five.
But as impressive as Verdugo was, Dyson trumped the LSU junior in just his first SEC start.
The Gamecock’s freshman right-hander pitched an impressive 6 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball. He allowed just two hits and struck out six batters, rendering the LSU offense completely inept through the first seven innings.
“Dyson was unbelievable,” Mainieri said. “We didn’t get many good swings against them.”
The Gamecocks got on the board first after three scoreless innings. South Carolina’s Johnny Disher took a Verdugo fastball deep to center field for a 1-0 lead.
Verdugo’s troubles did not end there, however.
The junior got into his worst jam of the night as he walked the bases loaded in the sixth inning. South Carolina center fielder Harley Lail capitalized on the opportunity, singling to shallow left field and scoring two runners for a 3-0 lead.
The Gamecocks grabbed their final run in the top of the ninth inning.
After LSU reliever Louis Coleman walked DeAngelo Mack, Reese Havens singled to center and scored Mack for the Gamecocks’ 4-0 advantage.
That was it, though, for USC because from that point on it was all Tigers as they staged their most improbable comeback of the year and extended their nation-leading win streak to 17.
“It was an amazing comeback,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri.”It was probably one of the best I have witnessed as a coach. This is a self-motivated team. They believe in each other, and they know how to win. This has been exciting, so I hope it keeps going. It’s been fun.”
Jared Bradford (10-4) was credited with the victory after pitching a scoreless 10th inning with one walk while Alex Farotto (0-1) was charged with the loss after allowing the home run to Dean.
LSU now advances to the winner’s bracket of the SEC tournament, where they will face either Florida or Vanderbilt on Thursday at 5 p.m.