South Alabama chipped away at LSU’s lead for the majority of Tuesday’s game before finally finding a crack in the armor in the ninth inning.
The Jaguars brought three runs home in the ninth against LSU left-hander Nick Bush to turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead. The Tigers rallied back for a run in the bottom half but stranded the tying run at second base to end the game in a 7-6 defeat at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers went into the game without late-inning aces Zack Hess and Hunter Newman, who were unavailable after working in Sunday’s series finale against South Carolina, as well as three regular starters.
“We were really shorthanded tonight with our lineup as well as with our relief corps,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “So that was unbelievable that we got through the game and we were almost able to pull off a win without having our guys. At the end of the day, we didn’t do enough tonight.”
Bush had not given up an earned run since March 28 but started the ninth by walking Brendan Donovan — one of 10 walks issued by the LSU pitching staff.
Donovan wheeled around to score the tying run on a squeeze bunt by pinch-hitter Matt Bolger. LSU actually was in position to make the hard-to-defend play, but first baseman Jake Slaughter’s glove flip sailed high of catcher Michael Papierski’s glove.
“If not for a high flip, we were out,” South Alabama coach Mark Calvi said. “They did a good job defending it. When you field the ball with your glove, sometimes it can get caught in your webbing and shoot up.”
The go-ahead run came home to score on a sacrifice fly.
Then an RBI single from
No. 9 hitter Will Luft provided the final dagger. Umpires initially ruled Bolger had been thrown out at the plate on Luft’s single, but a replay review reversed the call.
That run turned out to be crucial. Cole Freeman provided a spark when he singled to score Kramer Robertson with two outs in the ninth against closer Matt Peacock, then advanced to second on a throwing error. But Antoine Duplantis popped up to shortstop to end the game.
It was a sour end to a game that had started so well.
LSU jumped to a 5-1 lead through two innings. Two of those runs came when Greg Deichmann smacked his 16th homer of the season into the left-field bleachers with two outs in the first inning.
But the last run-scoring hit of the second inning — a sharp single back up the middle by Duplantis — came against Andy Arguelles, and he gave LSU fits from that point on.
Arguelles, who entered with two outs in the second inning, peppered the strike zone with a sneaky fastball and a variety of off-speed pitches, and the Tigers could never seem to figure them out.
“He was working to both sides of the plate,” Deichmann said. “He pitched well. He was working all three pitches in there and kept us off-balance for the middle part of the game.”
Arguelles put six consecutive zeroes on the scoreboard, firing 56 of his 89 pitches for strikes and only allowing one LSU player past first base in his 6.1 innings. He retired the final eight batters he faced, five by strikeout.
With Arguelles keeping LSU at bay, South Alabama started to chip away at the lead.
“He settled the game down,” Calvi said. “Our guys kept playing, we kept getting some men on, we’d scratch a run across here and there. … Andy kept throwing up zeroes, and the guys fed off it.”
The Jaguars, who needed a win to boost their NCAA tournament at-large credentials, scored runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings against a battery of LSU relievers to cut their deficit to one run.
But for a while, South Alabama couldn’t find the big hit to tie or take the lead.
The Jaguars had the tying run in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings, and in each of those innings they had the go-ahead runner on base.
Each time, LSU wiggled out of the jam — once thanks to a tremendous diving catch by Beau Jordan that left the bases loaded in the eighth.
LSU returns to action at Alex Box Stadium at 6:30 p.m. Thursday against Auburn.