Chris Reid does not waste at-bats. His pitch selection makes him a valuable asset in the middle of this potent LSU lineup, while the barrel of his bat remains in the strike zone longer than most, enabling him to spoil away even the nastiest of off-speed pitches when behind in the count.
Settled into the No. 5 spot as a commendation for his approach, Reid followed Jordan Romero in the Tigers’ lineup during Saturday’s 7-3 victory against Florida in the resumption of the rain-halted Thursday game.
Romero, at times, has carried this lineup. He is now mired in an 0-for-8 funk. His weak, 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth inning of a tense, 2-1 game accentuated such struggles.
Reid, a lefty, now faced Brady Singer, Florida’s sizzling reliever with effortless arm action and a fastball in the mid-90s. Reid fell behind 1-2. He fouled off four pitches while laying off 96-mph fastballs running in on his hands. Eventually, after 10 pitches, Reid earned a walk to reload the bases.
“He’s not going to knock the fences down. He’s not going to steal 30 bases, but he’s going to battle you in the batter’s box. He’s not going to give up easily. He’s going to force the pitcher to get him out and make a play,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I thought it inspired our team, quite frankly, that at-bat.”
This is procedure for the LSU offense. A scarcity of power and household names leaves it just one option: extend innings in any way possible while fielding competitive at-bats in hopes of passing the responsibility of run production down the lineup.
Reid accomplished his duty. What followed was what’s now textbook technique for this offense.
Following Reid’s walk, LSU erupted for five two-out runs, racing to a 7-1 lead on Greg Deichmann’s first-pitch, three-run double off newly inserted Florida reliever Nick Horvath.
The win keeps hope alive for a top-four seed and first-round bye in next week’s SEC tournament. A victory in the third game of the series, which begins at 3:30 p.m. Satrurday, would give the Tigers the No. 4 seed. A loss cements them as the No. 5 seed.
Horvath relieved Singer, whom Kevin O’Sullivan summoned to inherit Antoine Duplantis’ full count to start Saturday’s action. His first pitch was a ball, walking Duplantis to put two on with no outs.
Two hits followed. None left the infield. Deichmann knocked the fourth hit off the true freshman, a rocket through the four-hole that finally reached the outfield, scoring Bryce Jordan to put LSU ahead 2-1.
“That might be the best arm I’ve seen in the Southeastern Conference, and that’s saying something,” Mainieri said of Singer. “That kid, the ball jumped out of his hand, and it was electric. He reminded me a lot of Aaron Nola, quite frankly. … We did a terrific job against him; we battled him hard.”
Singer took the loss after 2.1 innings of six-run ball when he threw just 34 of his 61 pitches for strikes.
He plunked Bryce Jordan with the bases loaded in the fifth — the LSU-record 22nd time Jordan has been hit by a pitch this season. Bryce’s brother, Beau, drew a bases-loaded walk in the next at-bat before Deichmann’s three-run double brought the vocal afternoon crowd to its feet.
Tigers righty Riley Smith, who was scheduled to start Friday’s game, threw three innings of laborious ball in relief of Alex Lange, permitting four hits and three earned runs to go with two walks.
“They wouldn’t hack at anything that was in the dirt, and I left a few in the dirt,” Smith said. “Made some mistakes and they hit some balls in the gaps. It could have been better, but we got a win, so that’s all that matters.”
His precise fastball command eluded him, and he could not produce a shut-down sixth inning, allowing consecutive run-scoring hits to Jonathan India and Nelson Maldonado. Parker Bugg entered in the seventh and retired the final nine hitters in order, saving the Tigers’ most marquee series win of the season.
LSU scurried into its clubhouse following the win as the stadium emptied. Mainieri spoke to his players, mathematically eliminated from both an outright Western Division and overall SEC crown as a 3:30 p.m. series finale awaited them.
“You’ve got a chance to do something really special and have a weekend they’ll be talking about for years at this place,” he told the players.