LSU coach Paul Mainieri gave Russell Reynolds a message when the pitcher entered in the 10th inning: Throw curveballs.
Aside from an intentional walk, Reynolds threw only curveballs. It worked. He retired a pair of batters to strand three runners in a pressure-packed final inning of LSU’s 6-5 win over Missouri on Sunday.
Reynolds continued his success in what appears to be a new jam-busting role. Mainieri has gone to the pitcher in the clutch, and he’s come through for the top-ranked Tigers (43-8, 19-7 Southeastern Conference).
Reynolds, a sophomore from Parkview Baptist, has inherited 11 runners this season out of the bullpen. One has scored.
“I knew it was a big situation,” said Reynolds, who showed little emotion on the mound in the 10th. “Most of the time when I come in the game, there’s runners on base and it’s a big situation. I’ve accepted my role and calmed down a little bit.”
Jesse Stallings, who blew the save in the ninth, allowed the first two on in the 10th with a double and a single. Reynolds then entered with no outs and men on the corners in a tied game. No one scored. He got Missouri No. 3 hole hitter Ryan Howard to ground out to shortstop Alex Bregman before intentionally walking Josh Lester.
Trey Harris hit into a double play to third baseman Conner Hale. They all hit curveballs.
“Luckily it just so happened the pitch was where it was, and Bregman made a good play. And next batter, Hale made a great play,” Reynolds said. “Except the intentional walk, I threw curveball every pitch. I honestly thought about throwing curveball for the intentional walk to get a better feel for it.”
Hale said: “We knew that (Reynolds) was going to throw a lot of off-speed, so me and Breg were ready on the left side. We were able to roll that double play.”
LSU pitcher Kyle Bouman was a solid outing away from a great story.
He was getting his first start in an SEC game since last season. It was coming against his home-state team, Missouri, in his last regular season home game at Alex Box Stadium.
The senior fell flat.
Bouman recorded just one out in Sunday’s start. He allowed two hits and walked one. Lester, Bouman’s last batter, took him for a three-run homer over the right-center wall.
The search, now, continues for a No. 3 starter.
LSU has used four Game 3 pitchers this season: Bouman, Austin Bain, Jake Godfrey and Zac Person. Sunday was the sixth the time this season that an LSU pitcher threw less than four innings in a start in the third game of a series.
LSU’s Game 3 pitchers have an ERA of 4.39. They’ve struck out 28 and walked 28, and allowed 53 hits in 45 innings.
Bain, a freshman from Geismar, may have reclaimed the No. 3 spot with his stunning relief performance Sunday. The freshman retired his first seven batters and 15 of his first 16, shaking off his stumbling start last week.
Bain had surged from the bullpen and into the starting role in the No. 3 spot with solid relief appearances and a pair of good starts against Texas A&M and Auburn. He lasted just two innings against Mississippi State last week in allowing four hits and two runs and walking two.
This one was different.
“Huge confidence boost,” Bain said.
LSU has trailed in eight of the past nine SEC games and has come back to win six of them, including Sunday’s victory. The Tigers overcame a 3-0 first-inning deficit, rolling up two runs in each the fourth and fifth innings.
“We’ve been falling behind in so many games lately, we don’t really flinch when we fall behind,” Mainieri said. “We’ve gotten kind of used to it.”
Junior Hunter Devall will start in LSU’s game at UNO on Tuesday, his first start since 2013. He’s thrown only nine innings this season. … Sunday’s game was the eighth extra-inning affair in 26 SEC games for LSU. The Tigers are 4-4 in those. … LSU honored six seniors before Sunday’s game: catcher Kade Scivicque; pitchers Person, Bouman and Brady Domingue; designated hitter Chris Sciambra and third baseman Hale. Second baseman Jared Foster, a senior ruled ineligible, was not involved in the ceremonies. … Bregman’s 28th steal in the fourth inning Sunday tied him with Josh Dalton for the seventh-most in a single season.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.