The biggest surprise of LSU’s season had a letdown Saturday night.
Jesse Stallings blew his first save opportunity — in his ninth chance — and Ole Miss rallied to beat LSU 5-3 in 14 innings, stunning Alex Box Stadium’s largest crowd of the season and ruining a sparkling start from freshman Alex Lange.
Lange threw a three-hitter through eight innings, striking out a career-high 13 batters in an outing fit for a crowd of more than 10,000 and thousands more in LSU’s debut on the new SEC Network.
Ole Miss (10-8, 1-1 Southeastern) slapped LSU (17-2, 1-1) with its first loss in nearly a month, ending the Tigers’ 14-game winning streak and evening the series at a game apiece. Game 3 is 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Rebels ended the 4-hour, 15-minute affair after LSU blew a 3-2 lead in the ninth with Stallings on the mound.
Ranked the No. 1 team in the nation in at least one poll, the Tigers stranded the winning run at third base twice in extra innings and left the bases loaded in the 14th, and the Rebels put up a two spot in the 14th for the win.
“It’s tough,” said second baseman Jared Foster. “We didn’t get the clutch hits.”
In that 14th, Ole Miss first baseman Sikes Orvis drove in the go-ahead run with a double to the left-center field wall off reliever Kyle Bouman (0-1, 7.88 ERA). Bouman, who took the loss, walked the leadoff before Orvis’ shot. Ole Miss shortstop Errol Robinson drove in another run on a single to right field off freshman Austin Bain.
The game was put in doubt much earlier.
“Obviously Jesse had his first blown save of the year,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He didn’t have his same stuff. ... He didn’t have his command, and he didn’t really have life on his fastball. But you never know. Sometimes when he pitches on the second consecutive day, he throws harder than he did the day before. Today was not one of those days.”
LSU nursed a 3-2 lead from the fourth until Stallings’ struggles in the ninth. Stallings was 8-for-8 in save chances this year and had gotten No. 8 in a 6-4 win Friday on 18 pitches.
Ole Miss’ Will Golsan started the rally in the ninth with an infield single to Bregman at shortstop, and then Stallings walked the next batter. Orvis hammered a single through the right side to score the tying run before Mainieri pulled Stallings for Zac Person.
LSU had the winning run on third base in the bottom of the 10th and 12th innings. Danny Zardon doubled to lead off the 10th frame and moved over after a sac-fly. He was doubled off third on Mark Laird’s lineout to first base, a stunning end to the inning.
Jared Foster, owner of a one-out double in the 12th, was left stranded on third on Jake Fraley’s groundout to shortstop.
Fraley — 0-for-13 this week — flew out in foul territory to end the game with the bases loaded. Foster struck out swinging with two on and one out in that inning, too.
It was a theme of the night.
“We scored in one inning out of 14,” Mainieri said. “We had two clutch hits in 14 innings. It’s hard to win a lot of games that way. If we want to be known as one of the best hitting teams in the country, then we’ve got to bring it every day.”
LSU’s usually loud bats were mostly quiet against Ole Miss starter Brady Bramlett (six hits) and a group of relievers. The Nos. 1-3 hole hitters went hitless — an ugly 0-for-19 for a team that entered the game having seven batters hitting in the .300s.
LSU hitters went the final 10 innings without scoring a run and had just five hits in that stretch.
The Tigers did get a gem from Lange.
He didn’t have a walk in a career-long eight innings — a 117-pitch, strike-dominated performance. He struck out the side in three innings, flashing a mid-90s fastball and baffling Rebels hitters.
Lange, a highly touted 6-foot-3 righty from the Midwest who threw more than seven innings in a game for the just the second time in his life.
“He was just a monster out there on the mound,” Mainieri said. “He was just a beast. He really dominated the game and pitched his heart out. It’s really a shame that we couldn’t win the game for him.”
Lange hit his stride after allowing two runs in the third. He retired the next 14 batters, getting seven of those via strikeout. He struck out Ole Miss designated hitter Holt Perdzock in the seventh to break his strikeout record of nine set in his second start this season.
His 13 strikeouts are more than recent LSU greats Aaron Nola and Kevin Gausman ever had in a game in their careers at the school. He did it in Start No. 5.
“Every loss is the same,” Lange said. “You go out there, and you want to win and give your team every opportunity to win. When something like this happens, where you go into extra innings and can’t pull it out, it hurts. We’re going to come back out tomorrow and be ready to go.”
Lange struck out all three batters in the eighth inning — more than 100 pitches in and still throwing fastballs ranging at 91 to 93 mph.
“That’s unbelievable,” Foster said. “He did what he had to do.”
The Tigers got solid relief appearances from Parker Bugg and Collin Strall in extra innings. They combined for five strikeouts. LSU pitchers struck out 22 batters in the game. That’s two off the school record set in 1959. Also, catcher Kade Scivicque set a new school record with his 22 putouts.
Ole Miss took a 2-0 lead early, and LSU had a chance to respond quickly in the second inning, but Scivicque popped out and Foster struck out with runners on second and third.
“Tomorrow we’ve got to refocus, same intensity,” Foster said, “but we’ve got to get those close hits.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.