Strange hops, bizarre base-running bloopers and nearly a game-winning homer. This game was a wild one.
For LSU, it was simply a stunning, sour home loss.
Kentucky surprised LSU 5-4 in 12 innings Friday night at Alex Box Stadium, coming back from a two-run deficit in the seventh inning and winning it with a two-run 12th.
The Tigers (22-4, 4-3 Southeastern) left the winning run on third base in the 11th inning on a bizarre base-running play, and they stranded the tying run on third in the 12th.
“I’m going to take full responsibility for that one tonight,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “Couple of moves I should have made, I didn’t.”
LSU, ranked No. 1 in the nation by five of the six major polls, must now win the final two games of the series to claim the three-game set — which the Tigers did last week at Arkansas. This time, it’ll have to come against Kentucky (17-9, 3-4) at home.
Jesse Stallings took the loss, and Kentucky reliever Zach Strecker got the win in a wild affair that lasted 3 hours, 59 minutes. The game included five errors, and LSU had two weird gaffes on the bases — the most costly in the 11th.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Conner Hale’s hard grounder to the right side hit Alex Bregman, running from first to second, and he was ruled out. Hale’s shot was likely hard enough to get through the hole and win the game.
Kentucky then had a two-out rally the next inning.
Stallings, pitching his fourth straight inning and probably done for weekend, allowed a two-out single and hit the next batter before No. 3 hole hitter Ka’ai Tom hit a chopper down the first-base line. It took an odd bounce in front of Chris Chinea and skipped past him for a two-run double.
Jake Fraley came a few feet from a three-run homer in the 12th. His ball, against a steady 10- to 15-mph wind, was caught at the warning track but scored Grayson Byrd, who reached on an error.
Andrew Stevenson, who also had reached on an error, was left at third base after Jared Foster’s groundout to shortstop, ending the game and eliciting a field-storming from the Wildcats.
Foster went 1-for-5, and Bregman went 0-for-4 and LSU lost despite leading 2-0 from the third through the sixth inning.
Kentucky got to starter Jared Poché in the seventh, and Mainieri blamed himself for leaving the pitcher in too long. The Wildcats took the lead during the three-run, five-hit inning — all off Poché — before LSU answered in the bottom of the inning to tie it, scoring a run on third baseman Thomas Bernal’s throwing error to first base.
The Tigers left the bases loaded later in the seventh, but that crazy base-running play in the 11th was the lowlight for this team on an odd night. Fraley started the 11th with a single up the middle and moved to third with two outs after freshman Greg Deichmann hit into a double play.
Kentucky walked Mark Laird and Bregman to load the bases before Hale’s shot hit Bregman. The ball skipped toward the second-first gap and popped Bregman to elicit a sigh from a stunned crowd.
It was the second wackiest base-running play in the game. Chris Sciambra overran a base runner on what looked to be a double. He was called out after passing Foster while running the bases.
“It seemed like a bunch of breaks went against us tonight, but that’s looking at it the wrong way,” Sciambra said. “I think we caused ourselves a lot of the bad situations we were in.”
During the 11th, Deichmann, inserted earlier in the game for Sciambra, was up with a man on first and second and no outs. He didn’t bunt.
“Greg has never bunted before in his life,” Mainieri said of the true freshman from Brother Martin. “That’s my fault for not having him be able to. I haven’t emphasized him enough in practice, and we didn’t haven any other options on the bench that could bunt as well. If we would have tried to bunt, it would have not have worked.”
Poché retired his first 12 batters, and Kentucky had one hit through six innings before getting to the sophomore in the seventh. Poché’s last three batters had singles.
Parker Bugg retired the final batter to end a shocking turn. The coach said afterward that he should have removed Poché earlier, but he didn’t have Bugg up warming early enough.
LSU left two runners on base in the first and third innings, and the Tigers’ recent run of 15-plus hits ended. LSU had belted 15 or more hits in three straight games for the first time since May 2011.
The Tigers still ended up with 13 hits, but it wasn’t enough. They left 11 on base.
Relievers Alden Cartwright and Hunter Devall are on the active roster for this weekend. Cartwright has been suffering from the flu, and Devall strained a muscle in his back. Both of their statuses were uncertain entering the weekend. ... Stevenson extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and Kade Scivicque extended his hit streak to nine games.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.