AUBURN, Ala. — AUBURN, Ala. – The 50-degree temperatures and Auburn’s No. 1 pitcher couldn’t cool LSU’s searing hot bats.
They lit up Hitchcock Field.
The Tigers had 15 hits, scored six runs in the first three innings and Jared Poché threw a three-hitter through eight as LSU clobbered Auburn 10-0 on Thursday night in the opener of the final regular season series of the season.
Poché retired his first 12 batters, and the Tigers walloped the ball for the second straight game, keeping alive their hopes for a Southeastern Conference Western Division title and a bid to host an NCAA regional.
LSU (38-14-1, 15-11-1) can win the West with a sweep or by winning the series, depending on the outcomes of Ole Miss-Texas A&M and Mississippi State-Alabama.
“We went out there,” coach Paul Mainieri said, “and played virtually as well as we played against Northwestern State on Tuesday.”
Tyler Moore drove in three runs, and Mark Laird had three hits as LSU put up dazzling offensive numbers two days after a history-making outing in a 27-0 win over Northwestern State.
LSU beat the Demons in six innings for the largest margin of victory in school history, scored the most runs in a game since 1998 and had the first combined no-hitter that the program’s ever seen.
The Tigers have now scored 37 runs on 38 hits in 15 innings, and got their nation-leading 16th shutout of the season Thursday.
“We kept the confidence from it,” Moore said of Tuesday’s win. “I think that was big. We just carried that over.”
“Let’s face it,” Mainieri said. “They’re kids and their emotions can be like a roller coaster. They get confidence going they can ride that wave.”
On the road against a conference team Thursday night, the Tigers put on another offensive show for an announced 2,591 on a cool night at Samford Stadium. It was 59 degrees at first pitch, and temperatures plummeted during the game.
LSU’s offense did not.
The Tigers had eight hits through three innings, scoring six runs during that time to chase Auburn’s No. 1 pitcher, Dillon Ortman. They handed Ortman just his fourth loss of the year, dropping his record to 9-4.
“That’s what all of the extra cuts and all of the extra workouts and every time we lift a weight and every time we swing a bat … this is what it’s for,” Moore said, “trying to prove yourself and really come out swinging.”
Ortman entered with a 2.01 ERA. He had won four SEC games as a starter.
AU’s No. 2 starting pitcher, Keegan Thompson, is out for the season, setting up a favorable final two games of the series for LSU.
Coach Paul Mainieri’s team will throw ace Aaron Nola on Friday night. The two teams have not announced a starter for Saturday’s finale.
Poché and LSU’s defense matched its red-hot bats. The left side of the infield – Christian Ibarra and Alex Bregman – made a handful of stunning plays, and Poché had his best road performance of the year.
“Poché dominated,” center fielder Andrew Stevenson said.
“I just went out there and threw a lot of strikes,” Poché said. “Just let the guys put the ball in play and let my defense work behind me. Those guys did an excellent job. Make a lot of plays for me.”
Poché didn’t allow a base runner until Damek Tomscha’s single led off the fifth inning. He didn’t walk a batter until the seventh, a part of his game that had struggled on the road.
In four previous road conference starts, Poché had walked 15 batters in 22 innings.
He had one walk and struck out five on Thursday night, and Auburn didn’t advance a runner past second base until the eighth inning. Alden Cartwright started the ninth inning, retiring three of four batters – all on strikeouts.
The Tigers appear to be catching fire at just the right time.
They’re scrapping to finish in the top four in the SEC standings, a result that could land them an NCAA regional host site and give them a pass in the single-elimination round of the SEC tournament next week.
Thursday’s win is a big boost, but LSU needs help from Ole Miss and Mississippi State, who both won Thursday.
A thing that might lock up a top four finish: sweeping the series. That seems do-able. An LSU sweep would get Mainieri’s group a top four seed unless Mississippi State sweeps Alabama.
Meanwhile on Thursday, Bregman finished 2-for-5 and scored twice in an emotional performance. He met the team in Auburn on Thursday morning after flying in from his grandfather’s funeral in California. He took a red-eye flight last night from Los Angeles, arriving in Atlanta at 6 a.m. and then driving over with pitching coach Alan Dunn.
Said Bregman: “This team clicking.”