A trickle turned into a torrent that Ole Miss could not find its way out of, as LSU pounded its Southeastern Conference rival 15-2 in Thursday’s series opener.
LSU scored one run in each of the first four innings before breaking the game wide open by following a four-run fifth inning with a six-run sixth. Nine LSU players collected a hit, LSU did not commit an error and lost a shutout with two outs in the ninth inning.
“I thought that was a total effort by our team in every facet,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “… That’s as good as you can play right there.”
The Tigers (24-11, 8-5 SEC) put on an offensive clinic with two outs. Twelve of LSU’s 15 runs scored with two away in the inning, and at one point in the seventh inning, LSU was 9-for-15 in at-bats with two outs.
Two of those two-out hits came from sophomore left fielder Antoine Duplantis, who went 4-4 with a double, three runs scored and four RBIs.
A night like that was needed for Duplantis, who was hitless in his previous 14 at-bats entering Thursday’s game. His big night came out of the No. 9 spot in the order, his third straight game hitting at the bottom of the LSU lineup.
He snapped that streak with a two-out RBI double to right-center field in the second inning off Ole Miss starter James McArthur (2-2).
“That’s what coach was telling us the other day,” Duplantis said. “One of the biggest things we need to get better at is clutch hitting. … We did a really good job at that tonight, and we need to keep getting those clutch hits, it’s going to take us a long way.”
Never was LSU’s two-out team success more evident than the four-run fifth inning.
After two quick outs to start the inning, six straight Tigers reached base, five of whom reached on a base hit. The biggest hit of the inning came when Cole Freeman singled up the middle with the bases loaded to score a pair.
Freeman came up again in the next inning with the bases loaded, but popped up to the catcher in foul territory. Lucky for LSU, it was the second out of the inning and slugger Greg Deichmann was behind him in the order.
Deichmann unloaded on a 1-2 fastball, sending it well over the wall in right-center field for his second career grand slam and 11th home run of the year. Deichmann said he was surprised to see a fastball in that situation.
“One-two (count), I’m sitting off-speed, and he kind of laid one right in there for me,” Deichmann said.
The shot traveled an estimated 457 feet, according to LSU’s ball-tracking technology. Deichmann’s slam gave LSU six runs in the sixth and made it a 14-0 LSU advantage.
Of course, all that was overkill. LSU’s pitchers, led by ace Alex Lange (4-4), dominated the Ole Miss lineup.
It was the first time since March 19 — when LSU scored 22 runs in its SEC opener against Georgia — that Lange pitched with something other than a 0 in the run column for LSU.
“It’s more comfortable,” Lange said. “You find a rhythm, you get into a groove. It’s a lot more fun to win than it is to lose.”
The junior right-hander turned in another outstanding effort, striking out seven while shutting Ole Miss out for seven innings.
Lange retired the first 13 batters he faced and only allowed four base runners during the outing. The only time he ever got in any real trouble, he struck out two straight batters with runners on first and second to end the fifth inning.
“I thought Lange was terrific,” Mainieri said.
Over his past four outings, Lange has struck out 33 in 27.1 innings pitched and has only allowed five earned runs, good for a 1.65 ERA. This is the first game LSU has won in that stretch.
The Tigers will send Jared Poché to the mound at 7 p.m. Friday looking to clinch a series win.
“Our guys, I challenged them to come out and be ready to play again, to go out there and play with confidence,” Mainieri said. “All we did today was avoid getting swept in a weekend series.”