Conner Hale can count the number of times he’s pinch-hit on one hand.
He won’t forget this one — and neither will his new LSU fan base.
Hale drove in the tying run in his only at-bat of the night, little-used outfielder Chris Scaimbra followed with the go-ahead single and LSU got its first late-inning comeback of the season, a wild 4-2 win over Purdue at a lively Alex Box Stadium.
“Good teams find a way to win in the end,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “The guys rose up in the end. Those are the kind of victories that do wonders for your team.”
And for a hitter in a slump.
Hale, a junior college transfer from Florida, entered Saturday’s game 2 for his last 17 at-bats and missed a start for just the third time this season.
He exits as one of the heroes of a wild, three-run seventh inning.
It’s a frame that helped LSU (13-2) overcome a late-two-run deficit and win a fourth game in four days.
Mainieri rested Hale in part because of his recent woes at the plate. Hale, normally a starting first baseman who bats cleanup, was inserted for Tyler Moore in that electric seventh inning.
He delivered with a two-out chopping single up the middle to score Kade Scivicque from second base to tie it.
Sciambra, making just his fourth start of the season, then hit a single through the right side to bring in Hale for the eventual winning run.
“I was looking for a fastball to drive up the middle or through the right side,” Hale said.
Said Sciambra: “I just wanted to get the ball on the ground. Drive it through the infield.”
LSU starter Kyle Bouman, in his final audition for a Southeastern Conference weekend starting job, allowed six hits, two runs and struck out five through 6 1/3 innings. He didn’t issue a walk and, at one point, struck out four of six batters.
It was a solid showing less than a week away from next weekend’s SEC opener, a showdown in Nashville with consensus top-10 Vanderbilt.
“He threw strikes,” Mainieri said. “I thought he was down in the zone most of the night — he threw a couple bad pitches — but overall, I thought he competed really hard and did a nice job for us.”
The coach will decide on his weekend rotation after junior Cody Glenn pitches Sunday. Glenn, Bouman and freshman Jared Poché are all chasing a weekend starting gig.
Poché is expected to have secured a spot in the rotation.
The Boilermakers (1-9) got a run in the third and another in the fourth off of Bouman, but couldn’t hold the lead in the second of a three-game weekend series in Baton Rouge.
The two teams meet in Game 3 at 1 p.m. Sunday.
LSU waited until late Saturday to start moving runners.
It all came in that seventh.
Sean McMullen singled to start the inning, and Scivicque was hit by a pitch. Christian Ibarra’s sac-bunt moved the runners, a shot Mainieri called “beautiful.”
Hale then smacked a chopping single over second base. The ball hopped just past Purdue reliever Mike Lutz.
“At first, I didn’t know if he was going to be able to grab it. Saw it go by him,” Hale said.
Scivicque beat the throw from center.
Hale had pinch-hit just one other time this season and had not often done it before arriving in Baton Rouge.
“It’s a different mindset because you’re not as warm when you come in the game,” he said.
LSU used a trio of relievers after Mainieri pulled Bouman in the seventh. Nate Fury threw just 1/3 of an inning but got the win.
Kurt McCune and Joe Broussard both threw a scoreless inning to keep the bullpen’s scoreless streak since its collapse in a loss to Yale last Sunday.
LSU’s relievers have thrown 13-plus straight innings without allowing a run.
Mainieri’s shuffled lineup Saturday included moving McMullen in the No. 4 hole and second baseman Kramer Robertson at the leadoff position. Robertson struck out all four at-bats and made an error. … Stevenson continued to shine in center field. For the second straight night he stole a double with a fully extended dive in the gap. He also extended his hitting streak to 13 games. … Bregman extended his hitting streak to seven games and was 2 for 3. … Scivicque extended his hitting streak to five games.