It might have taken seven innings, but the LSU baseball team finally awoke to the realization that the postseason was playing out – unfavorably, one might add – right under their nose.
Austin Ross, who took a 5-7 record and 5.15 ERA into the afternoon, was tested early – giving up a two-run home run to Victor Franklin with no outs in the top of the first.
“They had two runs off my first three pitches, so that was kind of frustrating,” Ross said. “I was coming off the best pre-game bullpen I had thrown all season, so I did not want to come out like that. After that, I just bared down and tried to give us a chance at the win.”
Over the next 5.2 innings, the junior did just that – holding the Jaguars scoreless on five hits and a career-high ten strikeouts.
Yet, with the early two-run cushion, Jaguar southpaw Chase Richard met Ross stride for stride.
The senior, who took the loss to move to 6-4, tossed a scoreless performance through five frames, leaving to a standing ovation in the seventh after giving up two earned runs on seven hits during his stay on the hill.
“I just wanted to pitch my game, and I felt like I did that,” Richard said. “I kept everything low and away, and I had good stuff going. I felt alright the whole way.”
As the Tiger rotation cycled through, however, the Jaguar southpaw began to look vulnerable.
In the bottom of the sixth – on his third plate appearance of the afternoon - Ryan Schimpf doubled to right field. The junior then stole third before taking home on a throwing error by Jaguar catcher Michael Thomas.
“I got to second base, and I saw the sign to steal if I had it,” he said. “I got the timing down on the pitcher and made a good jump.”
With the Tigers drawing within one run, Alex Box Stadium and the 8,641 fans on hand came alive.
“We needed to get a run right there, something to change the momentum of the game,” Mainieri said.
By the end of the following frame, momentum became the Tigers’ middle name.
LSU tacked on seven runs on six hits and two errors in the seventh to take their first lead of the game.
“We played 6.1 innings of good baseball and had a multitude of opportunities to really score some runs,” said Southern head coach Roger Cador. “We brought in our ‘guy’, Kyle Wahl, and he has been there all year for us.”
Unfortunately for Cador, Wahl – who allowed five runs on four hits over one-third of an inning of work – had problems outside of the Tiger bats to deal with.
“[Wahl] never told us he hurt his foot in the bullpen, and it was unfortunate he went out there,” Cador said. “If he had told us he was injured, we could have done something different. We had Daniel Garcia that we could have brought in at that point. He would have served us well had we known Kyle was injured.”
For the Tiger skipper, patiently waiting out Richard’s performance was the key to success.
“We knew that we would eventually get to them, and eventually we did figure [Richard] out,” Mainieri said. “Southern played so well for six or seven innings, but we just stayed patient.”
Schimpf, who was 3-for-4 with two runs on the day, wrapped up the postgame press conference by labeling the performance in a very matter-of-fact manor.
“We won because of a team effort: 1-9.”
Sophomore Anthony Ranaudo will start Saturday’s 6 p.m. game two against the winner of Friday evening’s Baylor vs. Minnesota bout.