COLLEGE STATION, Texas — No. 3 LSU clinched the SEC Western Division with a 2-1, extra-inning victory against Texas A&M at Blue Bell Park on Saturday.
With the game shortened to seven innings, Sean McMullen won it with a sacrifice fly to right field in the top of the eighth. Ty Ross got the inning started with a leadoff double, then Jared Foster, who pinch ran for Ross, advanced to third on a perfectly executed bunt by Andrew Stevenson.
Then, McMullen, who went down in the count 0-2, ripped one deep enough to right field to allow Foster to score from third.
"I just wanted to do anything to help my team win," said McMullen, who went 4-for-4 with three RBI in Game 2. "I knew going into the last inning that I might come up to bat in a RBI situation…I was just trying to hit the ball hard. That's all I was trying to do."
Because Arkansas lost its series opener against Tennessee on Friday, LSU needed just two victories to win the West. The Tigers got one Saturday morning, wrapping up the win from Friday night's weather-suspended contest. LSU then took care of business in the series finale to also clinch at least a No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament.
"I hope that's the first championship of the year for us," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "When you think back to the preseason, there were four or five teams in top 10 from the SEC West. To win the division is a great accomplishment for our team."
After LSU erupted for 17 hits in the second game of the series, the Tiger bats were quieted for most of the finale. Aggie starter Parker Ray, who made just his third start of the season, limited LSU to one run on five hits with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched.
That run came in the third as Ross again reached to lead off the inning with a full-count walk. He moved to second on a single by Stevenson and to third on a hit by McMullen. Mark Laird brought him home with a single to right.
That inning did come with its frustration though, as LSU could have possibly produced more than the one run. With Laird at the plate and the bases loaded, Stevenson was picked off at second before Bregman later grounded into an inning-ending double play.
"Sometimes we're our own worst enemy," Mainieri said. "We do some things that make me scratch my head, but you can't ever argue about the grit and determination of our team."
LSU starter Ryan Eades was effective but not quite up to his typically dominant self. Eades had to work out of several jams throughout the game as he allowed a runner to second in five of the seven innings he worked.
"That's usually what happens," Eades said. "I just try to make quality pitches when guys are in scoring position. I keep the ball down and really think about what I have to do. I just try to make it happen and let my defense play behind me."
Eades stranded runners on second and third in the first inning, then another in scoring position in the third before Texas A&M eventually tied it in the fourth.
With two outs, Daniel Mengden, who was the winning pitcher on Thursday, reached on a dribbler to short. Alex Bregman tried to barehand it, but it rolled past him. Mengden hustled to second on the error, then scored later on a RBI-single by Krey Bratsen.
Eades would again find himself in a jam in the seventh, as he allowed the potential game-winning run to reach second. With one out, Chris Cotton relieved Eades, pitching for the second time in one day after earning the save in Game 2. Cotton needed just one pitch to induce an inning-ending double play and alleviate the threat.
"When I came in for that seventh inning, I had to hold those runners," Cotton said. "[Eades] did such a great job, I couldn't let it end."
After LSU took the lead in the eighth, Cotton returned in the bottom of the inning and closed it out to record his third win of the season.
Though LSU dropped the series opener on Thursday, the Tigers rebounded to win the series, moving to 21-6 in the conference with only three games — Ole Miss at home — remaining on the schedule.
"We've won all five of our series on the road this year, most of them in very tough environments to win," Mainieri said. "Mississippi State, Arkansas, this place — are you kidding me? Words can't even express how proud I am of our guys."
Below is a recap of what happened in Game 2 of the series, a 7-4 victory for LSU that concluded Saturday morning:
The Aggies came out firing, but their Friday night deficit was too much to overcome as LSU completed a 7-4 victory on Saturday morning.
Inclement weather forced the teams to suspend play Friday night with the Tigers leading 7-2 heading to the top of the seventh. Once play resumed at 9:30 a.m., Texas A&M tacked on a run in each of the seventh and eighth innings.
Though the Aggies had some offensive success, it wasn't enough to overcome the five-run deficit as Chris Cotton retired the side in the ninth to close it out.
After a disappointing game offensively for LSU in Thursday's 2-1 defeat, the Tigers jumped out in front early on Friday, taking a 3-0 lead in the second inning. JaCoby Jones, Andrew Stevenson and Sean McMullen — who finished 4-for-4 with three RBI — all drove in runs that inning.
LSU tacked on three more runs in the fourth behind RBI singles by McMullen and Jared Foster. One more scored on a passed ball to make it 6-0 early. LSU would then make it 7-0 in the sixth thanks to McMullen's third RBI, this time on a double down the right field line.
Texas A&M was able to narrow the deficit in the bottom of that inning. Aaron Nola allowed consecutive singles to open the inning before Mikey Reynolds laced a grounder to Christian Ibarra, who made the force out at third. He then tried to double up Reynolds at first, but his throw was errant, putting two runners in scoring position.
Blake Allemand responded with a two-run single up the middle to make it 7-2. Nola worked out of that inning before play was halted for inclement weather.
Once play resumed Saturday morning, Joey Bourgeois came in to pitch for LSU, officially ending Nola's bid for a fifth consecutive complete game. Bourgeois labored through his 1 2/3 innings of work, allowing runs to score in the seventh and eighth innings.
Bourgeois came out with runners on first and second with one out in the eighth. Nick Rumbelow, who pitched 1 1/3 hitless innings on Thursday, relieved Bourgeois and induced a 5-4-3 double play to end the threat.
Cotton entered in the ninth and retired the Aggies in order, earning the save and capping off the victory.
LSU clinches SEC West with 2-1 victory
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