Succesful Sunday at The Box

The No. 1 LSU baseball team stayed undefeated by sweeping William and Mary over the weekend. Sunday's double-header at The Box saw the Tigers take 9-6 and 7-4 wins.

Despite no Anthony Ranaudo and a relatively quiet weekend at the plate for a number of Tigers, LSU handled William and Mary in all three games to get the weekend sweep.

After a rain out on Friday forced a Sunday double header, the Tigers put together the biggest comeback in 22 seasons – a 10-9 win over William and Mary on Saturday that saw LSU score eight runs in the sixth inning.

In game one of Sunday afternoon’s double-header, the Tigers faced – and overcame – a deficit once more. This time, LSU answered a four-run top of the fifth inning with four runs of their own, keeping distance on William and Mary from start to finish to get the 9-6 win.

LSU catcher Micah Gibbs was 4-for-4 in the game, driving in one run to bring his average to .455, the best on the team outside of Matt Gaudet - the Tigers’ designated hitter.

“I saw the ball real well in the first game, and I was mentally ready to make some things happen,” Gibbs said. “I like the four-hole a lot. I like getting up to bat with guys on base and getting the chance at the big hit when we need it.”

Gibbs got things started in the first inning when he drove leadoff man Trey Watkins across the plate from second for LSU’s opening score. Watkins reached base after being hit by a pitch, and he moved to second on a two-out balk.

The next two innings saw both sides go scoreless. LSU starting pitcher Joey Bourgeois, who went 4.1 innings and allowed four runs on four hits, struck out the side in the third and silenced the Tribe after a pair of runners reached in the fourth.

In the bottom of the fourth inning, LSU added two more runs – though the total the Tigers put together nearly appeared to reach one more. After Gaudet homered to left field to score two runners, Watkins popped a deep ball to right field – which hit off the yellow line at the top of the wall and bounced straight up.

It was initially called a home run. However, after the umpires huddled, the ruling on the field was a triple - and the Tigers eventually stranded Watkins at third to end the inning at 3-0.

“The umpire on the first base line didn’t know the rule,” said LSU head coach Paul Mainieri. “The yellow line isn’t a home run. It has to clear the fence and get into the stands. It hit the top of the fence and came back. When [the umpires] got back together, his judgment was that the ball never left the park.”

In the fifth, both sides traded frames of four runs each.

Matt Gaudet had a big Sunday at the plate for LSU

Things obviously got rocky for Bourgeois, who gave up a solo home run to Derek Lowe to start the frame. After he walked two straight batters, a William and Mary RBI single put the score at 3-2. When a sacrifice bunt moved runners to second and third, Bourgeois’ day was done.

“I thought Joey was a little better in his first outing,” said catcher Micah Gibbs. “He got away from the mentality of first-pitch and 1-1 strikes, and that is our motto.”

It didn’t take long for the Tribe to take a shot at Daniel Bradshaw’s fresh arm, scoring a pair of runners on a two-out single to right field that moved the score to 4-3 in favor of the visitors.

In the bottom of the inning, Gibbs led LSU off with a single and a steal. After a single by Tyler Hanover put runners on the corners, Leon Landry – who recorded three RBI in the first game – doubled to center to score both runners. Mahtook then reached first base on a fielding error, and both runners advanced on a double-steal.

Then came another big play from Watkins – who has proven to be everything and more that Mainieri promised in the leadoff spot. The sophomore first-year Tiger drove a double to right-center, which scored two more runners and put LSU back into a comfortable lead at 7-4.

“We are grinders,” Landry said. “It isn’t over until it is over. Either way it goes, the game isn’t over until the ninth inning and the last pitch and last out.”

Bradshaw made it through both the sixth and seventh innings without giving up any additional runs, eventually earning the win – his second of the season. Bradshaw’s final line was three hits on no runs on 50 pitches over 2.2 innings of work.

LSU added two more runs in the eighth thanks to RBI singles from Dean and Landry, which scored Watkins and Dean, respectively. William and Mary managed to get out of the bases loaded jam with two straight pop outs that kept the score at 9-4.

Southpaw Zach LaSuzzo started the ninth inning on the mound for LSU, though the appearance was a bit short-lived. On a pair of quick singles and a walk, LaSuzzo loaded the bases with no outs. By the second out of the inning, the Tribe had cut the lead to four. When Mahtook lost the attempted final out in the sun and another runner scored, Mainieri elected to close the game with Matty Ott.

With two outs and runners on the corners, Ott got the Tribe to line to Hanover at second for the game ending out. The save was Ott’s fourth on the season.

“We did what it took to win,” Mainieri said. “I didn’t think we played great or terrible. This has happened three or four times already, where the other team rallies against us and instead of hanging our heads we answer right back. I would like to see us pitch a little once we got the lead, then we would be fine.”

In the second game, which began an hour after the first, LSU sent freshman left-hander Jordan Rittiner to the hill for his second appearance – and first start – on the season.

Things began tough for the southpaw, but a steady approach kept Rittiner ahead of the William and Mary batters for most of the afternoon. In the first inning, Rittiner gave up a double before a walk put runners on first and second. After a strikeout, the Tigers fielding abilities went south. With the runner picked off when both Tribe batters went to second base, third baseman Beau Didier threw the ball into right and allowed the lead runner to score. The second run came across when Mahtook tossed the ball back from right field; a throw that ended up going past Didier at third and into the Tribe’s dugout. With two outs and men on first and second, the Tribe drove another run across on a single to center, which pushed their early lead to 3-0.

Blake Dean had two hits and an RBI in the second game of the day

The Tigers chipped away at the score over the next two frames, bringing one run across in the first inning and three in the second to take the 4-3 lead. Watkins scored the run in the first and drove another man across with a triple in the second.

With Rittiner calm, the Tiger batters went back to work in the third – where they added two more runs to the total, this time by way of a Gaudet two-run shot, his second long ball of the double-header.

“I got in the box and felt good,” Gaudet said. “I had a few breaks, saw the ball and hit it. I have no complaints batting in the eight spot, and it is the same pitches I was seeing. One through nine, I don’t care; as long as I am in the lineup.”

In the fourth, the Tigers added another run from Watkins – who scored from second on a hit by Nola after reaching base on a single and taking second on a steal.

“We knew it was going to be a long day, so we tried to grind it out and stay mentally tough,” Watkins said. “We get on base for the Deans and Gibbs and Mahtooks to drive us in, and that’s what we do.”

In the fifth inning, the day began to wind down for Rittiner. The freshman allowed two straight hits to begin the frame, and a fielding error by Nola loaded the bases with no outs. A fly out to Mahtook scored one runner and left men on the corners. Yet, a 4-6-3 double play – the team’s third of the double-header - stopped the Tribe from mounting any sort of comeback. By the seventh, fellow freshman Mike Reed stepped in to relieve Rittiner of his duties.

Reed, who allowed only two hits and no gave up no runs over the final three innings, shut down the day for LSU. Rittiner, whose final line read one earned run on eight hits over six innings, recorded the win – his first on the year.

Watkins, who went 2-for-3 with two runs in the first game of the day, ended the series with a three-run performance on 3-of-5 hitting from the plate. Gaudet, who had two RBIs on a hit in the first game, finished the series with a second one-hit, two-RBI outing. Landry, who stole an LSU record four bases in the second game on Sunday, went a combined 3-for-7 with three runs and three RBI.

“I had opportunities in previous games where I didn’t come through in the clutch, so I wanted to take a new approach today,” Landry said. “I just tried getting on and becoming a runner, and I tried to let the big guys behind me bring me in.”

For Mainieri, though the Tigers moved to 7-0, nothing was given.

“Nothing was easy all weekend,” he said. “We were down 8-0 on Saturday and held on for a one-run victory. William and Mary were scrappy, and they gave us everything we wanted for 27 innings. They made big pitches and big plays, and their offense kept scratching some runs across. We were very fortunate to win all three games.

“We have seen inconsistency, but we expect that,” he added. “If you have enough good guys, each one takes his turn on carrying the team. I think our power will get better, but it is nice to know that we have speed to manufacture runs.”

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