SOUTH BEND, Indiana – Bryce Jordan isn’t the type who presses during intense situations or grows frustrated during streaky stretches, he claims.
Then came Wednesday - LSU’s doubleheader against Notre Dame that included, at one point, one run through 17 innings of baseball.
So, the sophomore was boiling some in his seventh-inning at-bat of Game 2. Frustrated?
“It was going through my mind,” he said. “The whole day everybody’s been struggling.”
He released the frustration on Peter Soloman’s 1-1 pitch.
Jordan’s seventh-inning single drove in the eventual winning runs – both were plunked to reach base – and Riley Smith delivered a six-inning shutout in his first collegiate start, leading LSU to a 3-2 win over Notre Dame in the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep Wednesday.
The final out sent more than 300 LSU fans roaring into the cool, overcast night in South Bend. Fighting to host an NCAA regoinal, the Tigers (33-16) grabbed a critical pair of victories – despite having eight hits in 18 total innings. They beat the Irish (26-22) 1-0 in Game 1 earlier Wednesday on Jake Fraley’s solo home run in the 11th inning – a shot that had coach Paul Mainieri beaming between games while he mingled with old friends.
Mainieri coached at Notre Dame for 12 years before arriving at LSU, a run that included a College World Series appearance in 2002.
“I make no bones about it – the 12 years I spent here were very special. I love the University of Notre Dame. I loved coaching here. We loved living here,” Mainieri said. “A lot of these things here at the field I put up, signs and batter’s eye. There was some nostalgia there, but my total focus tonight was figuring out a way to beat these guys.”
He got a much-needed sweep at his old school in a long day. Rain washed out Tuesday’s game, sending the two teams into what was supposed to be a pair of seven inning games.
The first went 11, with neither team scoring until Fraley’s blast over the right field fence. It was his second homer this season and first since March 5, snapping an offensive skid for the Tigers. They went six full innings without a hit, a whopping 24 consecutive batters.
Mainieri gave Fraley the “take” sign for 3-1 and 3-0 pitches - both fastballs for strikes - before he got the green light.
“We knew he was going to come back with fastball,” Fraley said. “I made sure I was going to get my foot down.”
Austin Bain, who threw 46 pitches in two innings in that first game, got the win, and Hunter Newman got the save. LSU used six pitchers, and the Tigers stranded Notre Dame’s winning run on third base twice in the final five frames of the opener.
The Tigers had to sweat it out at the end of Game 2.
Doug Norman, entering for Smith to start the seventh, loaded the bases with two outs, and Jesse Stallings walked in a run to make it 3-1. Another scored on a passed ball moments later before Stallings struck out Ricky Sanchez to clinch the sweep.
Jordan Romero and Beau Jordan were plunked to start the seventh inning of Game 2, and then Chris Reid walked to set up Bryce Jordan’s skidding shot over the pitcher’s mound to make it 2-0. Reid scored on a wild pitch moments later for a 3-0 lead before a near seventh-inning collapse.
“I went up there with the approach, ‘I’m going to get my fastball, and I’m going to hit it,’” said Jordan, 0-for-5 Wednesday before his shot.
LSU used nine pitches in the two games – a hefty amount for a squad that must now play a three game series against Tennessee beginning Friday. It could have been worse without Smith’s six innings and 4.1 innings from John Valek, the Game 1 starter.
“John gave us five and Riley gave us six,” said Mainieri, who plans to start Alex Lange in Game 1 against the Volunteers but has not decided on Saturday and Sunday starters. “Everybody we used out of the bullpen will be fresh and ready to go. It sets us up for this weekend. Hopefully we can go to Knoxville and take advantage we were able to piece it together, these two ballgames.”
The team is scheduled to fly on a charter jet directly from South Bend to Knoxville, Tennessee, on Thursday afternoon.
They’ll want to leave the hitting woes behind. The Tigers went hitless in 10 straight at-bats in the night cap and in nine consecutive appearances in the first game.
It was a struggle on both sides. It got bad enough that Notre Dame’s best hitter, Cavan Biggio, bunted – successfully – for a hit with two outs in the fifth inning of Game 2. The next inning, Cole Freeman beat out a groundball for an infield single, eliciting a roar from the LSU-heavy crowd.
The elation was short lived. Freeman was thrown out trying to score from second base on Fraley’s blooping single into short left field.
Smith, meanwhile, shined in his first collegiate start in Game 2, claiming the victory. He’s missed five weeks of the season with tendonitis in the shoulder.
“Best I’ve felt in a long time, just get to throw the way I used to throw,” Smith said.
The junior college transfer from Texas struck out the final batter of the first and second innings to strand runners in scoring position. He hummed a sharply hit groundball to first to end the fourth inning, and he made an overhead leaping grab of a high hopper for an out in the fifth that sent the crowd into an “L-S-U” chant.
Purple and gold blanketed Jack Eck Stadium, the smallest venue the Tigers have played in this season. The place sits 2,100. Announced attendance for the doubleheader was 1,001.
They got to see a bizarre pair of games. The teams combined for just the one run – Fraley’s shot – through the first 17 innings.
They were 1-for-19 with runners in scoring position in that opening game Wednesday. Each team loaded the bases in the ninth inning of that one but could not bring in a run. The Tigers and Irish combined for five hits through the first eight innings, and LSU did not have two runners reach base in the same inning until the ninth.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @RossDellenger.