Pitching Pulls Through Again

HOOVER, Ala. – LSU starter Austin Ross threw a magnificent eight innings and the eighth-seeded Tigers pounded 15 hits to beat fifth-seeded Vanderbilt, 7-5, in the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday night at Regions Park.

Ross (5-4) tied his career-high in innings pitched with eight and allowed four runs on only four hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. The junior right-hander had retired 14-straight batters between the second and ninth innings, and his two walks came in the first frame of the game.

“I thought Austin Ross was phenomenal,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s so much fun to coach when you get great starting pitching like that because it allows the offense to be very aggressive. We’ve had good starting pitching these past two nights so we’ll see if we can have a good third performance on Saturday.”

On Saturday at 9:30 a.m., the Tigers (38-20) will face the winner of the Ole Miss-Auburn game, which takes place at 3 p.m. Friday. Vanderbilt (41-16) will face Florida in an elimination game Friday.

For the second consecutive game in the tournament, the LSU offense exploded with double-digit hits. Center fielder Leon Landry and first baseman Blake Dean led the Tigers with three hits and an RBI apiece. Catcher Micah Gibbs also had a pair of hits, including a solo homer in the third that broke a 3-3 tie.

The Tigers wasted no time jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after Mikie Mahtook singled to lead off the game and later scored on an RBI single by Blake Dean. After Dean reached second on a hit-and-run, Austin Nola drove Dean in with a double to left field to make the score 2-0. The next batter, Leon Landry, singled to right scoring Nola and increasing LSU’s lead to 3-0.

Vanderbilt tied the game at 3-3 in the second when Connor Harrell singled home Joe Loftus, and was followed by a two-run homer by left fielder Mike Yastrzemski. The homer was the second of the season for Yastrzemski.

In the third, Micah Gibbs launched a solo homer with two outs to regain the Tigers’ lead at 4-3. The homer was Gibbs’ ninth of the season.

“I was proud of our guys for responding after Vanderbilt tied the game in the second inning,” Mainieri said. “There was no head-hanging in the dugout. We remained focused and responded, and that shows signs of a mature team.”

The Tigers increased their lead to 5-3 in the fifth when Tyler Hanover doubled and scored from third on a wild pitch from Vanderbilt starter Taylor Hill (5-5). Hill was charged with the loss after allowing five runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings.

LSU added two more runs in the sixth to go up 7-3 when Mahtook roped an RBI double to left, scoring Alex Edward, and Mason Katz later scored from third on an infield ground out by Hanover.

Right-hander Matty Ott entered the game for Ross in the ninth and allowed back-to-back RBI hits before striking out Yastrzemski to secure the 7-5 victory for LSU.

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