With only five hits, No. 4 LSU’s Friday night win over Georgia was not about the bats.
Instead, the arms of Anthony Ranaudo, Chris Matulis and Matty Ott pushed the Tigers to 22-3 overall and 6-1 in SEC play.
“Our pitching won the game,” said head coach Paul Mainieri. “We didn’t do a whole lot offensively, but I thought our pitching was outstanding.”
After he missed four starts over the past month and a half, Ranaudo returned to the hill for the first time in Alex Box Stadium since opening weekend. He pitched three innings of three-hit, one-run ball, giving way to southpaw Chris Matulis after 55 pitches.
While the stat line had Tiger fans pleased enough, the best news on Ranaudo’s front was his optimistic attitude about the timeline for a full recovery.
“We had the 55-65 pitch limit, but my arm felt fine,” he said. “I felt like I could have stayed out their and been able to extend it. I am building on this for next weekend.”
Yet, with the injury bug following Ranaudo, the night couldn’t come without a slight scare.
With one out in the top of the first, Ranaudo took a hard line drive off his right foot, sending the 6-foot-7, 230-pounder hobbling across the infield. With the crowd in silence, Ranaudo tossed a few warm up pitches and continued on.
“It kind of relaxed me a little,” he laughed. “It was more of a shock thing. I knew after I ran to first [base] that it was going to be fine.”
In the third inning, Matt Gaudet got the Tigers onto the board with an RBI groundout that scored Tyler Hanover, who had singled earlier in the frame.
By the following inning, Georgia answered with a game-tying solo shot off Ranaudo, effectively ending the junior’s outing. After the Zach Cone homerun, Matulis struck out the next three batters to end the inning. The LSU staff combined for 13 strikeouts, including six by Matulis.
“Chris was lights out,” said LSU catcher Micah Gibbs. “We had talked earlier in the day about how he needed to get his strikeouts up, and he came out in that first inning and set the tone.”
Then, on a night when the Tiger bats were nonexistent, there came a pair of RBI singles that pushed LSU ahead for good.
In the sixth, Beau Didier extended the lead to 2-1 with a two-out RBI single to center. In the seventh, Austin Nola knocked a single down the left line to score two more runners.
Down 4-1, Georgia answered by scoring two runs on a pair of eighth-inning doubles. At 6-0 in one-run games headed into the evening, the Tigers called on Ott to keep the record unblemished.
Ott struck out the side in the ninth to secure the 4-3 win, earning his 10th save of the season, which is good for best in the NCAA.
While LSU got the victory, left fielder Trey Watkins suffered a dislocated elbow during a catch attempt in the sixth inning. Mainieri said that he is not certain how long his sophomore leadoff man would be sidelined.