HOUSTON — Texas Tech cleanup hitter Tanner Gardner hit a bases-loaded infield single that bounced off LSU closer Hunter Newman to bring home the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Newman (0-1) reflexively kicked the ball, eliminating any chance of the infield making a play on the ball. LSU (9-3) lost by a 5-4 final score and lost two of its three games on the weekend.
“I guess it’s just an instinct thing,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “(Shortstop Kramer Robertson) was right there. It was just going to be a routine grounder for him to step on second and send us to another inning. Unfortunately it ricocheted off his foot. Really bad break for us.”
Gardner’s single was the last of several rallies by both LSU and Texas Tech (11-2) in the closing innings.
LSU broke a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning by stringing together multiple two-out hits, started when Michael Papierski yanked an 0-2 pitch into left field.
LSU followed that with an infield single and an intentional walk, loading the bases for Antoine Duplantis. The sophomore center fielder delivered with a two-run single off left-handed reliever Parker Mushinski.
But the Tigers left the really big inning on the table. Greg Deichmann grounded out to first base to end the LSU seventh with the bases loaded, and the Red Raiders had their response ready.
Texas Tech began its own rally immediately with LSU freshman right-hander Todd Peterson on the mound. Left fielder Ryan Long drew a full-count walk, then went first to third on Connor Beck’s single to center field.
Designated hitter Brian Klein followed with a perfectly placed bloop single down the right field line that cut the deficit to one, and the Red Raiders tied the game after Peterson uncorked a wild pitch with runners on the corners.
“Really for the first time all year, Todd didn’t have it,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri tried to end the rally by bringing in closer Hunter Newman with one out in the seventh, but Red Raiders third baseman Josh Jung drilled the first pitch he saw past a diving Josh Smith to knock in the go-ahead run with two outs.
But LSU had one more rally left. Rankin Woley, pinch hitting for Brennan Breaux, led the ninth inning off with a sharp single.
LSU substituted Beau Jordan into the game as a pinch runner, then manufactured the tying run. Jordan took second base on Cole Freeman’s slow ground ball to the left side, then took third base on Duplantis ground ball to the right side.
He screamed in from home to tie the game up with Paker Mushinski uncorked a wild pitch to Kramer Robertson.
But again, the Red Raiders had an answer ready. Again, it started with a free pass to begin the ninth when Newman hit left-fielder Cody Farhat with the first pitch of the inning.
Texas Tech and LSU alternated between ground balls that advanced runners and intentional walks that set the stage for Gardner’s walk off single. His teammates mobbed him in shallow right field after the winning run scored.
Somewhat lost as the teams traded blows in the late innings was a great start from freshman right-hander Eric Walker, who struck out seven in six strong innings.
The only run Texas Tech was able to push across on him came in the second inning, when Ryan Long tagged him for a solo home run to deep right field.
“He mixed his pitches really well today and kept them totally off balance,” Mainieri said. “That was the key for him. He wasn’t just laying fastballs in there, he was mixing them well and got a lot of outs with his changeup. That’s how he’s going to have to pitch.”
“I’m not discouraged at all,” Mainieri said. “We were right there, had a chance to win. Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.”