Senior shortstop Kramer Robertson used a revealing word as he described LSU’s opportunities in a series-opening 3-2 loss to South Carolina on Friday night.
The word: squandered.
The Tigers had multiple chances to take a lead against South Carolina. They did not cash in on any of them, and the Gamecocks stole the first game of their series at Alex Box Stadium.
“We didn’t execute when we had our chances,” Robertson said. “You’re not going to beat really good teams like this if you squander so many opportunities.”
LSU (30-16, 13-9 Southeastern Conference) went 2 for 16 with runners on base. It went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position. It went 0 for 3 with the bases loaded.
The Tigers had the tying run in scoring position with one out in each of their final two innings. They stranded that runner both times.
“You’re not going to get a lot of good opportunities to score against good pitching staffs like South Carolina has,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “At those particular moments, their pitcher beat our hitter.”
Jake Slaughter, who entered the game as a pinch runner in the eighth inning after Nick Coomes drew a one-out walk, struck out with runners on the corners to end the game after South Carolina opted to intentionally walk slugger Greg Deichmann.
In a losing effort, LSU wasted a fantastic outing by starter Alex Lange (5-5).
For eight of his nine innings Friday night, Lange was untouchable.
“I thought Alex pitched his heart out and gave everything he had,” Mainieri said.
He retired South Carolina (27-17, 11-11) in order as he breezed through a 10-pitch first inning. From the start of the third inning to the end of the ninth inning, he faced just two batters over the minimum and allowed just two Gamecocks to advance past first base.
But South Carolina had his number in the second inning, and that was the difference in the Tigers' 3-2 loss.
The Gamecocks tagged the LSU ace for three runs on four hits in the second, racing out to a lead they didn't relinquish as they took the series opener.
Each of South Carolina's four hits was a single, and there was a moment when it looked like LSU might’ve been able to get out of the inning without a run coming home.
Alex Destino singled into right field with one out. Deichmann, already with five outfield assists under his belt, rocked and fired as Jonah Bride rounded third base.
It appeared Deichmann’s laser throw beat Bride to the plate. The umpire called him out and the crowd roared in approval. But a replay showed catcher Michael Papierski was unable to apply a tag as Bride slid around him to score.
Later in the inning, with two outs, No. 9 hitter Madison Stokes drilled a two-run single into center field to give South Carolina a 3-0 lead. That at bat was still bothering Lange after the game, saying that pitch was the difference between a win and a loss.
“Hanging a breaking ball and letting the nine-hole (hitter) drive in two runs with two strikes and two outs,” Lange said. “I lost the team the game; that’s on me. I can’t hang a breaking ball to the nine-hole hitter.”
Lange finished the game as the tough-luck loser, firing his second complete game that resulted in a loss this season.
LSU didn’t wait long to start chipping away at that lead — but the Tigers wasted their best opportunities.
They left the bases loaded in the bottom of the second when Zach Watson lined out to second base to end the inning.
Robertson blasted a solo home run to left field — his fifth of the year — with one out in the fourth inning off Gamecocks right-hander Wil Crowe. Robertson finished the night with three hits.
LSU looked poised to at least tie or take the lead in the next inning when Papierski and Watson hit back-to-back singles to start the inning.
A double-steal put runners at second and third with nobody out, and a wild pitch scored Papierski and put the tying run 90 feet away with one out.
But South Carolina decided to go to its top-shelf bullpen early in a big situation. Gamecocks coach Chad Holbrook called on left-hander Josh Reagan with one out in the fifth, and Deichmann was coming to the plate with runners on the corners.
Reagan did his job. Deichmann bounced into a rally-killing 6-4-3 double play, and the Gamecocks held onto the lead.
From that point on, the combination of Reagan and closer Tyler Johnson — who hit 98 mph on the stadium radar gun — allowed just two hits and no runs in the final 4.2 innings to close the game.
The teams play again at 7 p.m. Saturday.