BEAUMONT, Texas — Thirty-five minutes after LSU starter Austin Bain exited a scoreless first inning at Lamar on Wednesday night, he began his second with an eight-run lead.
Debuting a modified breaking ball that, as he describes it, is more reminiscent of a slider-and-curveball mix, he got two quick outs before issuing the first of eight LSU walks.
Bain hung his breaking ball to Lamar’s next hitter, Bryndan Arredondo, who took it for a towering two-run homer, slicing into an eight-run deficit and setting the Cardinals on a long, gritty path to their 12-11 victory over the Tigers.
“Cardinal rules of baseball,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri lamented. “You have to throw the ball over the plate with the lead.”
Seven innings later, freshman Caleb Gilbert faced a similar situation. He was inserted to clean up another mess his bullpen counterparts had created.
With the bases loaded and no out, Gilbert fanned his first two hitters on seven pitches. He had his third, Robin Adames, behind in a two-strike count. He went for the breaking ball.
Adames, like Arredondo, got a hold of it. Two runs scored.
This time, it erased a deficit for good.
The Tigers pitching staff issued eight walks, hit four batters and coughed up an eight-run lead while their offense remained quiet until a late-inning uprising that was, again, thwarted by an inefficient bullpen performance in Wednesday’s loss before an overflow crowd at Vincent-Beck Stadium.
Bain lasted just four innings, issuing two doubles in the third, the second scoring Brendan Satran. After giving up two walks but skirting damage in the fourth, Bain was lifted for Riley Smith to begin the fifth.
Smith lasted just 1.2 innings, serving a mammoth two-run home run in the fifth before walking three hitters in the sixth — two of which came around to score in the five-run rally.
All those runs were charged to Smith.
LSU had taken an 8-0 lead with an eight-run second inning, starting when Beau Jordan took the first pitch in the back before his brother, Bryce, flew to first for the first out.
Twelve hitters stepped to the plate before the second out.
“We scored 11 runs, but the only ones I can think of are the ones we left at third base in the second inning and in the eighth inning,” Mainieri said. “When you’re on the road in a tough environment against good teams, you have to get everything you can get and we didn’t finish off those rallies when we had the chance.”
Without Jesse Stallings, Mainieri turned to Alden Cartwright for the seventh, his team now ahead 11-10. He hit two of his first three batters to give way to Parker Bugg, who fanned Brendan Satran on three sliders before plunking Stijn van der Meer to load the bases.
Middleton then sent a high chopper to third base, where Lochridge — who was named the permanent starter Tuesday — snagged it at the highest point of his leap to nail the third out of the inning.
Bugg walked the first two hitters of the eighth before a single ended his evening, and Gilbert stepped in, almost escaping damage.
Instead, he watched his former coach, Will Davis, wave Cutter McDowell home as the throw from center was cut off.
“My heart bleeds for them. I love the guys in that purple and gold dugout, and I love that coaching staff, too, and they’re going to be fine,” Davis said.
“Forget the opponent. It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever been a part of.”