COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Before LSU encountered an untimely teaching moment, the Tigers had a chance to seize the moment.
In the first inning of Saturday afternoon’s series finale at Blue Bell Park, LSU cleanup hitter Beau Jordan ran the count 2-0 against Texas A&M starter Kyle Simonds with one out. Kramer Robertson stood at third and Antoine Duplantis at first, both of them longing to cross the plate.
Jordan had a golden chance to send them home. Instead, he harmlessly sent Simonds’ next pitch to first base.
“He’s got to go up there with a better attitude, approach — whatever it takes and get the job done,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “And he has for the most part this year. But when you’re playing Texas A&M and it’s Game 3 and you’ve got a chance in the first inning to take a lead, you’ve got to rise up to the occasion. And he didn’t there. It’s that simple.”
Added Jordan: “It’s more of a wake-up call.”
It was one of six chances LSU (16-7, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) had with runners in scoring position — none of which resulted in hits. For the series, the Tigers finished 3-for-29 with runners at second or third, although they out-hit the Aggies — who came into the series atop the SEC standings in four offensive categories — in two of the three games.
“It’s just the nature of the sport that sometimes guys fail,” Mainieri said. “It’s not that they’re not trying, but sometimes they just have to recognize the moment. Maybe it’s either be more aggressive, be a little more selective, they have to recognize the situation. You don’t do that unless you play, and you have to play a lot for that to happen.”
The first-inning threat fizzled moments later. With a 3-1 count on Brody Wofford and a walk or contact seeming imminent, Mainieri gave the sign to start Duplantis at first base. Instead, Simonds fooled the freshman with the old 5-3 fake — faking a pickoff throw to third base and turning to first, where Duplantis had already begun to break for second.
Robertson, in turn, took off for home. Simonds threw to A&M catcher Michael Barash for an easy third out.
“We had warned (Duplantis), but (when) you’re out there on the field in front of a lot of people, it’s a whole different environment,” Mainieri said. “They have to think clearly. They learn from those situations.”
Barash, an LSU transfer, rifled a fourth-inning RBI single off Tigers starter John Valek III to give Texas A&M (21-3, 4-2) a 1-0 lead. Barash was the only Aggie starter to get more than one hit off Valek, who turned in a sterling effort in his SEC road debut, only to see it squandered by a lack of run support.
Valek left after six innings of six-hit baseball. He stranded three runners in scoring position and walked just one. His lone blemish was a first-pitch fastball to Nick Banks, a preseason All-American who’d been flummoxed by LSU pitching all weekend.
“Right down the middle,” Valek said of the pitch, which Banks smashed over the right-field wall for a homer 2-1 lead. “He did what he’s supposed to do with it. Obviously with the atmosphere and everything, I was excited to come out here and throw a good game. I just made a couple mistakes and they capitalized on it.”
Preceding Banks’ home run was LSU’s first in seven games, a Greg Deichmann no-doubter that landed inside the LSU bullpen in the fifth and, for a moment, created momentum.
“We struggled all weekend to string hits together,” said Deichmann, who added a single in the seventh. “We ended up with 8-10 hits all weekend, but you look up and you only see one or two runs on the board and wonder why. It’s timely hitting and being able to string them together.”
One final opportunity appeared in the eighth.
Facing Aggies closer Ryan Hendrix and still with his team trailing 2-1, LSU pinch hitter Jordan Romero drew a two-out walk on five pitches — the last pitch of which scooted by Barash, sending LSU pinch runner Brennan Breaux to third base with the potential tying run.
Two pitches later, Mike Papierski bounced into a fielder’s choice.
“It’s SEC baseball,” Deichmann said. “When you get into these one- and two-run ballgames late in the game, it’s whoever can string the hits together and get these clutch hits. We weren’t able to do that this weekend.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome.