The battle to see who would blink first between LSU and Louisiana Tech lasted for 5½ innings.
The LSU offensive attack was deflated by Louisiana Tech left-hander David Leal, but its two best offensive players delivered the big hit at the right time to break a scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth. A sterling effort by the Tigers pitching staff was enough to make those hits hold up for a 2-0 victory in a game that lasted just one hour, 54 minutes.
"I'm not a smart man, but I know if you don't give up any runs your chances of winning are pretty good," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
LSU (21-13) was only in the game Tuesday night because of a fantastic outing by freshman right-hander AJ Labas, who needed just 63 pitches to record six strong innings.
Labas did not walk a batter, allowed just two hits and retired the last 11 batters he faced. Mainieri said he only took Labas out of the game because he wanted to get his bullpen some work — including the most recent addition to it.
"We could've stayed with Labas, and he probably would've done a nice job," Mainieri said. "It was by design to make sure we got those three relief pitchers into the game."
With some surprise, Mainieri brought in Caleb Gilbert, who until Tuesday had spent his entire season in the weekend rotation, to pitch the seventh inning. Gilbert logged a 1-2-3 frame, becoming the first of three LSU relief pitchers to join forces to keep the visiting Bulldogs off the scoreboard.
"That's been the plan since this weekend," Mainieri said about Gilbert's move to the bullpen. "We're trying to get him back into a role that last year he was very successful in."
Nick Bush danced around a pair of two out walks to record a scoreless eighth. Austin Bain fired a perfect ninth to record his third save this season.
It was LSU's third shutout win of the season, and it came at an opportune time.
Leal (2-2), who entered the night with a 1.65 ERA and a gleaming 46-to-5 strikeout to walk ratio, was as good as advertised his first two times through the LSU lineup.
He cast an imposing figure on the mound at a listed 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, but his repertoire did not exactly align with his powerful physique. Leal pounded the strike zone with a steady diet of offspeed pitches and a fastball that topped out in the mid-80s, and LSU simply could not pick it up early.
"Their left-hander was as crafty as can be," Mainieri said. "The first time through the lineup he carved us up, and even most of the second time through the lineup."
Leal was perfect through three ruthlessly efficient innings, needing only 29 pitches to strike out five of the first nine batters he faced. His next trip through the lineup was nearly as sharp, as he gave up two hits and erased one of them on a double play.
But LSU started to crack the puzzle in its third look at the big left-hander.
"The more we saw him, the more we started to recognize the pitches," Mainieri said. "Guys made a pretty good adjustment."
In the sixth inning, Zach Watson stepped to the batter's box for his third plate appearance with Jake Slaughter in scoring position. He drilled the first pitch he saw for a sharp single to left field, breaking a scoreless tie.
Watson stole second base, setting the stage for Antoine Duplantis to score him with a single he smashed back up the middle of the field. He went to the plate looking for the offspeed and used his quick hands to react to a first-pitch fastball.
"It helps me stay on the ball," Duplantis said. "I can go the other way. ... If I sit back and be conscious of the breaking ball, I'll stay on the fastball."
Leal was the tough-luck loser in a complete game effort, allowing the two runs on six hits in eight innings. He needed only 86 pitches to finish it off.