It was ironic that No. 4 LSU scored the winning run in its 4-3 victory against Brown on Friday night when a Tigers batter didn’t get a hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.
That was the theme all night as LSU went 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position and stranded at least one runner in scoring position in every inning except the second.
But when Christian Ibarra came up with the bases loaded and one out in a 3-3 game all he had to do was find a way to get JaCoby Jones home from third — with or without a hit —- and he did just that with a medium fly ball to left.
Jones beat the throw from Matt DeRenzi and the Tigers (8-1) escaped with a less-than-textbook victory against Brown, which was playing its season opener in chilly Alex Box Stadium.
“We had some good at bats to get runners on base,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It was just that when we got runners on base our approach wasn’t great.”
It was OK in the ninth though.
Jones walked on four pitches against Taylor Wright (0-1) leading off. Tyler Moore beat out a hit-and-run grounder to short, and Kevin Guthrie, a son of former LSU left-hander Mark Guthrie, relieved.
Chris Chinea’s grounder advanced the runners for Ibarra, who worked the count to 3-2.
“I saw a couple of fastballs and the last one was a curveball,” Ibarra said. “I knew he was going to try and surprise me so I wasn’t out front. I waited and sat back on the ball.”
Chris Cotton (1-0) threw 1.1 scoreless innings for the win, though it was starter Aaron Nola, who bought time for the struggling hitters.
Nola struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings, allowing just three hits and one unearned run. His previous career-high of 10 was set against Louisiana-Monroe in the Baton Rouge regional last season.
But the inability of the Tigers, who had 24 runs and 33 hits in winning their last games, to get any key hits for Nola after the first inning kept him from getting a decision.
“It wasn’t a very good display of clutch hitting, but fortunately we have Aaron Nola on our team,” Mainieri said. “He was magnificent. It’s just a shame that he pitched his heart out and wasn’t able to get a win.”
The Tigers (8-1) will play the Bears (0-1) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Brown will begin its day with a 2 p.m. game against Nicholls State.
LSU was clinging to a 2-1 lead that it had had since the first inning when Nick Rumbelow relieved Nola to start the eighth.
Rumbelow struck out the first batter he faced then gave up a double to nine-hole hitter J.J. Franco.
Brown sent up left-handed pinch hitter Daniel Massey to bat for John Sheridan who struck out in all three of his at bats against Nola.
Mainieri responded by bringing left-hander Brent Bonvillain out of the bullpen. Bonvillain gave up a tying single to Massey, then hit DeRenzi with a pitch.
Will LaMarche came in and struck out Wes Van Boom for the second out. Cotton came in and gave up a tie-breaking RBI-single to Will Marcal.
Cotton got out of it and had a 1-2-3 ninth.
“I had to put (the eighth) behind me, and I had the same mentality (in the ninth),” Cotton said. “I was focused on the next inning and went ahead and got job done.”
The Tigers came back against reliever Chris Smith in the bottom half. Ty Ross led off with a walk and Ibarra sacrificed pinch runner Andrew Stevenson to second. After Chris Sciambra struck out, Mark Laird walked.
Alex Bregman lined a single to right to tie it.
“Ty did a great job of drawing that walk,” Bregman said. “I saw a curve ball and I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on it and just hit it the other way and tied it up.”
The Bears scored an unearned run against Nola in the first. DeRenti walked with one out and stole second. After a strikeout and hit batsmen, Cody Slaughter got an infield hit to third and DeRenti scored when the ball bounced away from Ibarra for an error.
“I hung a curveball with two strikes and that’s how they scored the run,” Nola said. “All my pitches were working tonight. My curveball and my changeup felt really good.”
The lead didn’t last long as LSU scored twice in the bottom half, but the Tigers missed a chance to score more when Rhymes was thrown out at the plate on Jones’ lineout to DeRenzi in left.
“We could have had some better at bats,” Bregman said. “I’m happy we came out with a win. We competed and out pitching did a great job and kept us in position stay in the game.”