Jake Fraley was tired of being beaten and battered.
He took out his frustration at just the right time.
Fraley hit a two-run triple in the eighth inning to lift LSU to a 9-8 win over Southeastern Louisiana on Thursday night, bailing out the Tigers for what could have been a historic loss.
LSU avoided back-to-back home midweek losses for the first time since 2002, and Fraley, a guy who’s suffered unusual and unlucky injuries over the past few weeks, blasted a feel-good game-winner.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit in my zone. The whole game, they were all coming fastballs in,” Fraley said. “They like to get strikeouts with fastballs inside, especially against lefties. He came with a fastball low and in, and I was able to get the barrel around on it.”
Trailing 8-7, Fraley’s skidding shot down the right field line brought home Conner Hale and Kade Scivicque, and closer Jesse Stalling got his fourth save to give LSU (7-1) a much-needed boost at the start of a busy 11 days.
The Tigers will play nine games in an 11-day span after this match against the Lions (5-4) was moved from Wednesday to Thursday night because of weather. LSU hosts Princeton (0-0) for a three-game weekend series starting Friday.
“It was a hard-fought, tough win like they always are against Southeastern,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “We don’t expect anything less. We found a way to win, and now we move on to the next one.”
In front of less than 2,000 fans at a chilly Alex Box Stadium, LSU squandered a 7-1 lead through three innings only to recover in the nick of time with Fraley’s shot off of reliever Pat Cashman. The sophomore smacked the 2-0 pitch on the fair side of first base, and it skidded into LSU’s bullpen, giving him a bit of positivity.
Fraley is fighting for his starting job in left field with senior Jared Foster, and he’s suffered some mishaps lately.
He collided with Southeastern Louisiana first baseman Kevin Carr in the game. He also was hit with a fastball in the knee during a scrimmage in the preseason, a shot that sent him to the ground for a few minutes.
And last week at practice? Fraley ran head first into the right field wall, collapsing to the ground in a scary moment. Players took a knee, and Mainieri burst from the dugout to check on his downed player.
Five minutes later, Fraley walked off the field slowly after only suffering a sore back.
Foster, off to a roaring starter at the plate, had at least temporarily replaced Fraley in the lineup. Fraley started Thursday only because center fielder Andrew Stevenson was out while resting a minor hamstring injury.
“My confidence is always there. It never went away,” Fraley said Thursday night.
“I’ve said all along, I’m not giving up on Jake Fraley,” Mainieri said. “Jake Fraley is a good ballplayer. So he played tonight because Stevenson was out, and what did he end up with? Three hits tonight including the game-winner? That kid is not going to go away. He’s a good baseball player, a good athlete and a great kid.”
His two-run triple overshadowed a rough night from an LSU bullpen that had shined so far this season. Tigers relievers, excluding Kyle Bouman, entered the game having allowed three earned runs in 26 innings.
They allowed three Thursday night in a game that ended with the windchill near 30 degrees. Two relievers – Parker Bugg and Zac Person – each issued bases-loaded walks to the first batters they faced.
Doug Norman’s second start lasted just 4.1 innings, and LSU had 13 hits but stranded 12 runners in another sluggish midweek performance. The Tigers lost last week to Nicholls State, a stunning 6-3 outcome.
Norman, a freshman, allowed six hits and five runs, just one earned, but he made two errors himself. He struck out six and walked two and left the game in the fifth inning after throwing a whopping 95 pitches.
Five LSU relievers walked seven batters and allowed five hits over the final 4.2 innings. Southeastern answered LSU’s six-run third inning with a five-run fifth, chasing Norman and pulling to within 7-6.
The Lions, a pesky opponent who made the Baton Rouge regional last year, took the lead with a two-run seventh inning, taking advantage of a rough outing by Person. He walked in the tying run and then threw a wild pitch to score the go-ahead run.
“I don’t think we pitched particularly well,” Mainieri said. “We gave them five runs, really.”
But it only set up Fraley’s dramatic, one-out triple – in the cold.
“This might have been the coldest baseball game I’ve ever played in,” said Fraley, from Delaware. “When it gets cold down here, it is 10 times worse than the cold up North.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.