COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Andrew Stevenson flashed his speed, Jared Foster showcased his defensive skills and LSU recovered after blowing a four-run lead in the ninth inning.
Stevenson turned a single into a double and then scored the winning run in the 10th inning as the Tigers beat Texas A&M 5-4 in an electric series opener Friday night at Blue Bell Park.
Stevenson slid safe into home plate on Mark Laird’s chopper back to the pitcher, and LSU (35-11-1, 13-8-1 Southeastern) escaped only because of a scintillating, game-saving grab from Foster in left field in the ninth inning.
A&M (28-19, 10-12) had the bases loaded when Blake Allemand smashed what was sure to be a two-out, game-winning line drive double to left. Running backward, Foster, a reserve who entered in the eighth, made the diving grab.
The highlight-reel play had longtime LSU play-by-play man Jim Hawthorne calling it maybe the best catch he has ever seen. ESPN made it No. 1 in its top 10 plays Friday night on “SportsCenter.”
“That’s about as big as it gets,” Stevenson said. “That was the game. That saved us.”
“Just goes to show you: You never give up,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Foster just makes an amazing … as great a catch as you’ll ever see in college baseball.”
Kurt McCune retired three of his four batters in the 10th to get the save as A&M left the bases full in a nerve-wracking inning.
The heroics from Stevenson, Foster and McCune followed a stunning late collapse.
The Tigers led 4-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth before starter Aaron Nola and closer Joe Broussard combined to walk five. Broussard allowed a two-out, game-tying single that scored two runs and had the announced 5,228 roaring.
Foster then had his snazzy catch to push the game into extra innings.
Foster said assistant coach Will Davis motioned to him to get closer to the left-field foul line before the hit. Foster’s dive was at the left field foul poll. He landed about 5 feet from the line, a leap that had him a few feet into the air.
“I kind of took a bad route in the beginning,” Foster said. “Ball kept carrying. Off a left-hander’s bat, didn’t think it was going to carry that much, but it ended up carrying. Dove and ended up timing it right. I knew I had to dive for it no matter what.”
Stevenson’s one-out line drive in the 10th smacked off the right fielder, sending him to second base on a close play that A&M coach Rob Childress argued.
A wild pitch from Ty Schlottmann moved Stevenson to third base. He came home on Laird’s 2-2 fielder’s choice back to the pitch. The play at the plate was close as Stevenson slid under the tag of catcher Troy Stein.
“If he hits it without chopping it,” Mainieri said, “he’s thrown out at the plate easily, and everybody says, ‘Why’d he go?’ ”
In the bottom half, McCune induced a lineout, a groundout and issued an intentional walk to load the bases. He got Logan Nottebrok to fly out to right field to end the game.
It all preserved a key win and overshadowed a couple of star performance from shortstop Alex Bregman and Nola.
Bregman had his first three-hit game in nearly two months, drove in two runs and gave the Tigers an early lead with a solo homer in the first inning.
Nola entered the ninth pitching a shutout on three hits. He retired nine straight at one point, finishing with seven strikeouts.
“I had a lot of first-pitch strikes. Got a lot of first-pitch strikes, second-pitch strikes,” he said. “A lot of 0-2 (counts).”
Nola didn’t allow a runner to get past first base over the first five-plus innings, a turnaround from his worst start of the season in a win over Tennessee last Friday.
He stumbled in the ninth, walking a pair before Broussard had his rocky stint.
McCune got his fourth save of the season, helping LSU beat a team that won a series at Mississippi State last week.
“Joe’s not going to be perfect all year long,” McCune said. “I’m glad I had a good night on his bad night. He’s been doing the opposite for me.”
The Tigers moved past Alabama in the SEC West standings and are in sole possession of second, trailing Ole Miss by a half-game heading into Saturday’s game, set for an ESPN2 telecast.
“We ended up getting the job done,” Mainieri said. “Just a typical SEC game.”
Jake Fraley struck out in his first three at-bats. He had not struck out twice in a game this season. … With a fourth-inning strikeout, Nola surpassed Randy Wiles for eighth place on LSU’s career strikeout list. He has 312 Ks; Wiles had 310. Mark Guthrie and Russ Springer are tied for sixth with 313. … A&M lost its starting shortstop, Logan Taylor, in the third inning after Taylor swung hard at Nola’s third strike and twisted his right knee. He was seen in the crutches in the dugout. … Mainieri started second baseman Kramer Robertson, and catcher/first baseman Kade Scivicque did not start.