It was not the double play that topped SportsCenter’s Top 10 list after Tulane’s March 29 victory against LSU. Green Wave shortstop Stephen Alemais made this one with relative ease, charging Jake Fraley’s sharply hit grounder up the middle, stepping on second base before firing to first to subdue a sixth-inning rally.
Much of what preceded Alemais’ play, which ended LSU’s only viable scoring threat against Tulane starter J.P. France in a 4-1 loss at Turchin Stadium, mimicked the Tigers’ earlier loss. Offense was optional. A defensive mishap allowed a crucial insurance run to score.
And 28 days later, France again mastered the Tigers bats, this time in front of a Turchin Stadium-record 5,215 fans.
“We knew exactly what we were getting tonight and he still beat us,” Kramer Robertson said. “He was still better than us tonight and it was frustrating. Tip your cap to them.”
France, who dissected LSU’s offense across six shutout innings of four-hit baseball in Alex Box Stadium, retired the first 10 hitters he faced while permitting six hits through 7.1 innings.
He threw a slider to complement a changeup early in counts while relying on a fastball with arm-side run to pitch the Green Wave to their first regular-season series sweep of LSU since 2007.
“We wanted righties to get off the plate, lefties get on the plate,” Fraley said. “He’s a guy with his fastball, he likes to stay arm-side, and he was able to locate his pitches just like he did the first time. He pitched well.”
No LSU runner advanced past first until Chris Reid’s leadoff double in the sixth. He was stranded at third on Alemais’ double play.
“Just threw strikes, really,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said of the Tulane redshirt sophomore. “Used his defense and we just didn’t square many balls up against him. He did a good job, have to give him credit.”
Monitoring his pitch count throughout the night to keep him available for the weekend series against Ole Miss, Tigers starter Doug Norman threw seven pitches in the first inning to induce three groundouts before Jeremy Montalbano drew a nine-pitch walk to lead off the second.
Montalbano, Tulane’s cleanup hitter who was the only player on either team to record more than one hit, was cut down on a fielder’s choice from Lex Kaplan. Kaplan advanced to third on Hunter Hope’s double into the left field corner and scored on Hunter Williams’ RBI grounder to shortstop, giving France all necessary run support.
Reid’s sixth-inning double was LSU’s only extra-base hit. Cole Freeman took France’s 98th pitch out to the left field palm trees, ruled a foul ball while the entire LSU dugout clamored for a two-run home run. An umpire conference upheld the ruling after Mainieri’s argument.
Freeman later induced a walk, ending France’s night after a career-high 7.1 innings of six-hit baseball. Sam Bjorngjeld entered, walking Duplantis to load the bases before balking home a run to the incredulity of Tulane coach David Pierce.
It ended a 45.1-inning streak where the Green Wave pitching staff did not allow an earned run.
Facing Fraley as the tying run after the balk, Bjorngjeld struck him out on four pitches. Reliever Patrick Duester entered, requiring four pitches against Jordan Romero, who waved wildly at a slider for strike three, ending the threat.
Norman was lifted after 49 pitches through 3.2 innings, where he permitted three hits and one earned run. Caleb Gilbert and Jesse Stallings handled the next 2.1 innings, where the Green Wave scored their next three runs, aided by another defensive lapse at first base.
His team within 2-1, Stallings induced a tapper back to the mound with two outs and two on in the fifth. He fired the ball toward first baseman Greg Deichmann, who did not catch it, allowing it to careen into the Tigers bullpen while a third run motored home.
“I fielded it, I was kind of in the basepath. It was iffy, I mean, it was there,” Stallings said. “But at the same time, Deichmann didn’t want to get hit (by the baserunner). It happens. People make mistakes, nobody’s perfect. It’s going to happen every now and then. I could have made a better throw, but it’s just one of those bad luck things I guess.”
Deichmann, who has two errors in his last three games and is mired in a 1-for-16 slump, was lifted in favor of Brody Wofford as a defensive replacement to begin the seventh inning.
Stallings surrendered a mammoth solo home run to Jake Willsey in the sixth, nearly hitting the scoreboard for a 4-0 lead. Willsey hadn’t hit a home run since, fittingly, his team’s first victory against LSU.
“I hammered it,” Willsey said. “I guess there’s something about LSU that brings my power stroke back.”
Quickly, conversation steered toward his starter.
“After the first inning, I just felt like I was on cruise control,” France said. It’s awesome whenever you can sweep LSU.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome