LSU’s lofty rankings will likely take a tumble now.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Doug Norman struggled in his first career start, and the Tigers hitters missed a host of scoring chances as Nicholls State stunned LSU 6-3 on Wednesday night at Alex Box Stadium.
Norman allowed nine hits and four earned runs in less than five innings, and the Colonels (3-1) knocked off an LSU team ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation on a chilly night in Baton Rouge. Nicholls beat the Tigers for the first time since 2009, the year LSU won the national championship, smacking the state’s flagship program with an ugly loss.
“I don’t think we tried hard enough, really,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “I think we just weren’t aggressive enough. We weren’t attacking.”
The Tigers (3-1), fresh off a season-opening series sweep of Kansas, hasn’t lost a game this early since 2008. Ranked in the top five in four of six polls, LSU enters a three-game set against Boston College with a nasty defeat.
The Tigers fell into a 6-0 deficit through the first five innings and stranded 10 baserunners in the first four innings — 17 overall. They had four errors and finished 4-for-19 with runners in scoring position.
“We left guys on base all day today,” shortstop Alex Bregman said. “We’ve got to get better as a team, and we will. We’ve got to drive guys in. We left a lot of guys on base, and we can’t afford to do that against a good team like Nicholls.”
Nicholls starter Ryan Deemes allowed seven hits in his four innings, including two doubles, but worked out of a host of jams. He had six strikeouts.
LSU got the leadoff man on base in each of the first four innings but couldn’t bring anyone home. The Tigers left the bases loaded in the first and the second, and they stranded two more in each the third and the fourth.
“We had opportunities and we just didn’t come through,” outfielder Mark Laird said. “If we come through, maybe it’s a different outcome.”
The Tigers had three strikeouts in the first, and Bregman and first baseman Conner Hale hit infield choppers in bases loaded situations in the second. LSU batters struck out twice in the third, and the Tigers ended the fourth on back-to-back flyouts.
It was the last thing LSU needed in starting a true freshman on the mound.
Norman’s first career start didn’t go as planned against a Nicholls State team that won 30-plus games last season for the first time since 1993. Norman likely falls behind a group of rookies competing for weekend starting spots.
“He got ahead of hitters, and I thought he competed real hard,” Mainieri said of Norman. “He hurt himself with some location. Too much down the middle strikes instead of trying to make them hit his pitch.”
Norman gave up at least two hits in each of his first four innings, including a pair of doubles.
“You don’t hear it too much, but I think I might have thrown too many strikes tonight,” Norman said. “I thought I did good getting ahead and getting it to 0-2 and 1-2, but with that two-strike pitch, I’ve just got to do a better job of executing.”
The leadoff man reached base in all five of Norman’s frames on the mound, and he made a costly errant pickoff throw that led to a 1-0 deficit in the first.
It wasn’t the only error. Left fielder Chris Sciambra, in the lineup for Jake Fraley, had a poor relay throw in the third that allowed another run to score on a sac-fly. Second baseman Kramer Robertson, and third baseman Danny Zardon each had an error. With LSU down 4-0, left-hander Hunter Devall replaced Norman and promptly gave up a run-scoring double and single to make it 6-0.
The Colonels made a pair of run-saving defensive plays in the victory.
Right fielder Alex Shermer’s running grab with two on base ended the fourth. With a man on second, third baseman Kyle Reese snared a hard line drive at the knees from Zardon to end the fifth.
LSU didn’t score until the sixth inning, when its short-lived comeback began after three straight singles and a whopping four wild pitches from Nicholls reliever Evan Hileman. Hale, Bregman and Andrew Stevenson had run-scoring singles in a three-run, four-hit frame that cut the deficit to 6-3.
It wasn’t enough, and the Tigers stranded four more baserunners over the final three innings.
“I just hate losing so bad,” Laird said. “We want to win every game. When we have those opportunities, we certainly want to capitalize. We’ll look back on this and know we need to come through.”
Tigers change schedule
LSU will play a doubleheader against Boston College on Friday and canceled Sunday’s game against the Eagles because of inclement weather, the school announced Wednesday.
The Tigers (3-0) will meet Boston College (2-2) at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Friday. The series finale will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday, the original start time for Game 2. There is an 80 percent chance of thunderstorms Sunday. All three games will be streamed online through SEC Network Plus, which is accessible at SECNetwork.com and through the Watch ESPN app.
Coach Paul Mainieri is changing his starting weekend rotation with the adjusted schedule. Sophomore Jared Poché, originally scheduled to pitch Sunday, will throw in Friday’s first game. Freshman Alex Lange will start Friday’s nightcap, and Jake Godfrey will throw Saturday’s series finale.
Fans should use their Sunday ticket to be admitted to Friday’s 2 p.m. game. The stadium will be cleared after that game, and fans will be re-admitted for Friday’s late game. The original ticket for Friday’s series opener will be honored for the nightcap Friday. Fans should use Saturday’s ticket for the series finale Saturday.
Lawrence Barreca contributed to this report.