Cody Glenn had just gotten himself out of a tough jam, LSU’s hitters were dinging balls around the park and the Tigers had a six-run lead.
It all unraveled.
Glenn faded after four innings, a usually reliable bullpen struggled and LSU blew a big lead Sunday at Alex Box Stadium, losing 8-7 to Yale in a shocking manner that resounded across college baseball.
Baseball America called it the “stunner of the weekend.”
The Tigers (9-2) were ranked No. 1 by at least one of the major polls, were in the top 10 in all of the others and had beaten Yale (1-2) by a combined 22-0 score in the first two games of the weekend series.
More surprising is what let them down: pitching.
“We just weren’t up to the task today,” coach Paul Mainieri said.
Glenn allowed eight hits — five in a row to start a dismal fifth inning that sparked the Bulldogs’ rally — and freshman Parker Bugg’s throwing error in the eighth plated the eventual winning run.
A drama-filled ninth inning was full of near-misses. Third baseman Christian Ibarra hit a two-out double that bounced off the left-center wall, about 3 feet from a game-tying homer, and first baseman Tyler Moore’s screaming line drive was hit directly at the right fielder to end the game.
The worst part, though, was a routinely steady bullpen struggling in spots.
A half-dozen relievers allowed a combined five hits, three runs and two walks while striking out none.
Hunter Devall allowed back-to-back doubles in the seventh to bring in two runs, and Kurt McCune, normally the Tigers’ go-to closer, walked one and allowed a hit in his short stint.
Bugg didn’t record a strikeout in an appearance for the first time this season. He allowed a leadoff bunt single to start the eighth with the score tied.
Later that inning, he scooped up a short, dribbling hit and threw wide of first, allowing the eventual winning run to score from third and inducing a collective gasp from the 4,546 at Alex Box.
Bugg’s throw ricocheted off Moore’s extended glove at first.
“I know the guys were still up there competing,” shortstop Alex Bregman said of the pitching. “I think they were just a little bit off tonight. We still have full confidence in them.”
Said Glenn of the bullpen: “I think they fed off my negative energy. I wasn’t able to get outs. It was a sloppy game.”
For Glenn, it happened at the worst of times.
A junior in last season’s starting rotation, Glenn is competing for one of the two Southeastern Conference weekend starting spots behind ace Aaron Nola.
Glenn, freshman Jared Poché and junior-college transfer Kyle Bouman are battling for the two gigs. Mainieri is set to make a decision on the rotation after Poché get his third start (and first on the road) Tuesday against Northwestern State.
In his three starts, Glenn has a 4.80 ERA and has allowed 20 hits, eight earned runs and two walks while striking out eight. His first two starts were against LSU’s toughest competition of the early season — at Southeastern Louisiana and vs. Louisiana-Lafayette.
Bouman, in three starts, has a 1.00 ERA, with 12 hits and two earned runs allowed. He has walked one and struck out eight.
“He is what he is. He’s not an overpowering pitcher,” Mainieri said of Glenn. “He throws the ball over the plate. If the balls are hit at people, he has a good day. If they don’t … maybe I left him in a little bit too long.”
Glenn allowed the first two batters to reach in the fourth inning but got out of the jam with two strikeouts and a groundout. He then allowed four runs in the fifth, and Mainieri stayed with him for the sixth. He gave up a leadoff single before the hook.
“I felt good early on. I was attacking hitters, getting early outs, trying to get that pitch count down a little bit,” Glenn said. “Everything was working out, and then my sinker started sinking a little bit less. … The movement wasn’t there for me later on.”
LSU’s batters rolled up 14 hits, and the Tigers scored four runs in the first inning, appearing set to coast to a series sweep of a middling Ivy League program.
LSU had its chances to score late.
Freshman Jake Fraley, pinch-running for Kade Scivicque, was tagged out trying to move from first to third on Ibarra’s one-out single to left in the seventh. Fraley hesitated, Mainieri said, when rounding second. Moore lined out to second to end the inning, a shot that would have scored Fraley.
Bregman appeared to hit a double through the left-center gap in the eighth. It would have brought home the tying run. But Yale center fielder Green Campbell, a Shreveport native, made a diving catch to save the run and end the inning.
It put an exclamation point on a rousing comeback for Yale and a demoralizing stumble for LSU.
“We need to bounce back from this,” Bregman said. “It’s a tough loss when you go up (6-0) and we come back and lose.”