GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Halfway through the regular season, LSU coach Paul Mainieri is looking for a leader, a hitter … someone.
Florida swept LSU in a doubleheader Saturday, clinching the series victory and keeping the sluggish Tigers in their hitting slump.
The Gators beat LSU 2-1 in the first game, winning on Justin Shafer’s two-out, walk-off homer in the ninth, and they secured the series with a 6-2 victory in Game 2.
LSU (20-7-1, 3-4-1 Southeastern Conference) dropped its second conference series in the last three for the first time since May 2011 and lost three straight for the first time since April 2011.
“Somebody’s got to step up and be a leader for us. That’s for sure,” Mainieri said after Game 1. “Everybody’s waiting for the next guy to do it. It doesn’t work that way.”
The Tigers and their star shortstop, Alex Bregman, are still stuck in an offensive funk that has extended to 10 games. LSU has scored nine runs in the last five games, and Bregman went 0 for 8 in Saturday’s twin bill against the Gators (18-9, 5-3 SEC).
Mainieri’s group had just eight hits and one run through the first 16 innings of the DH, and the Tigers were shutout for a whopping 15 consecutive frames at one point.
“We’re just going to flush this loss and bounce back tomorrow,” outfielder Sean McMullen said. “I’m going to go home to my hotel room and analyze each at-bat and every pitch they threw me and try to move forward and try to put good swings on the ball.”
A reshuffled batting order flopped Saturday.
Bregman, for the second time this week, batted in a new spot as Mainieri tried to jump start the preseason All-American. He was the Tigers’ lead-off hitter both games.
He grounded out four times, hitting into one double play, flew out three times and struck out.
He’s now 4 for 37 over the last 10 games, a .108 batting average. Bregman’s season average has dropped more than 100 points (.419 to .303) in that two-week span.
“It’s a lot on one kid’s shoulder, but Bregman hasn’t hit in SEC games so far and that’s really put a damper on our offense,” Maineri said. “You expect him to be your leader, and he’s struggled. He’s in the worst slump that he can imagine to be in.”
McMullen, batting fourth, went 0 for 7 with two strikeouts Saturday.
Ace pitcher Aaron Nola suffered a tough loss in Game 1, his first defeat of the season. He allowed two solo homers, including that 2-2 delivery that Shafer drove into the left-field stands for the game-winner.
The two teams played a doubleheader Saturday after Friday night’s game was rained out. Game 3 Sunday is set for noon CDT. LSU reliever Zac Person (1-0, 0.00) draws the first start of his LSU career.
Freshman starting pitcher Jared Poché allowed four hits and six runs, two unearned, in the Game 2 loss.
Second baseman Kramer Robertson bobbled a grounder in the fifth inning and threw wild to first base in a double-error play. It broke a scoreless game and put UF up 2-0.
The Gators added three more runs in the sixth on Taylor Gushue’s three-run homer that soared completely out of McKethan Stadium.
Poché started both frames with four-pitch walks.
Game 2 Florida starter Logan Shore retired 14 straight batters from the second out of the third inning to the last out in the seventh, and LSU had just one hit on him in the first seven frames.
“He threw strikes,” said Kade Scivicque, who batted third in both games. “He threw the ball over the plate and made us swing the bat and let his defense play. We hit the ball right at people.”
In Game 1, the Tigers had just seven hits, two over the final five innings, and missed on multiple chances to bring home another run.
LSU was 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position in the game, twice hitting into double plays to end innings with two men on base. Bregman did it in the seventh, and Conner Hale did it in the eighth.
“We just couldn’t come through with the big hit,” Mainieri said. “It’s frustrating because we had the right guys up at the right times. They just didn’t come through.”
The Tigers had two on in each the second and third, but they couldn’t bring them home.
Scivicque’s first-inning homer in Game 1 served as LSU’s only run.
“The kids are trying the best they can. It’s frustrating,” Mainieri said. “Part of it is good pitching. Part of it is we’re just not coming through.”
Bregman’s woes, meanwhile, are a mystery to Mainieri.
“My heart bleeds for the kid because there’s not a better kid, nobody that works harder than him. We’ve been working like crazy with him,” the coach said.
“I thought we had the best position player in the country in Alex. I thought he’d hit .400. He’s just … Poor kid. He’s trying his best.”