SEC Baseball Tournament - LSU vs Kentucky

Kentucky infielder Daniel Harris (1) gets back in time as LSU infielder Tre' Morgan (18) covers on a pickoff attempt during an elimination game game between LSU and Kentucky at the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover, Ala., Saturday, May 28, 2022. Photo by Vasha Hunt.

HOOVER, Ala. — Whether it was the 11-hour turnaround or the left-hander they faced Saturday afternoon, the LSU Tigers were not able to dominate Kentucky in the same fashion as they had two days before.

Tyler Bosma, a graduate transfer pitcher for the Wildcats, dealt a heavy dose of strikeouts and forced weak contact, keeping the Tigers hitless through the first six innings of a 7-2 victory in an elimination game at the Southeastern Conference tournament, sending LSU home to await next week's NCAA regionals.

The Tigers (38-20) are hoping they have done enough to warrant a top 16 seed and a home regional at Alex Box Stadium, but it's not a given.

The NCAA will announce its 16 regional sites at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. The NCAA tournament field will be announced at 11 a.m. Monday.

LSU's unofficial RPI ranking dipped four spots to No. 27 as of Saturday afternoon after the loss to Kentucky (No. 50), though rankings won't be final until tournament games finish Sunday across the nation.

"I think we were 26-9 at home and 10-7 on the road in the SEC against Florida, Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, so I think our team has proven it can do well in either environment," first-year LSU coach Jay Johnson said. "I think we're a worthy host, but there's only 16 of us."

On Saturday, Bosma gave up one earned run on one hit, walking two and striking out 10 of the 23 batters he faced — a season-high for the left-hander. That was enough to keep the Tigers quiet less than 24 hours after their 5-2 loss to Tennessee, a game stretched well past midnight Friday.

"He mixed speeds, changes pitches, really attacked the strike zone, got ahead of a lot of hitters, kept us off balance," catcher Tyler McManus said. "I think we could have taken a better approach to that and shown up ready to play a little bit better." 

Coming into the game, the Tigers were batting .246 against lefties and .309 against right-handers. They batted .050 against Bosma.

LSU couldn’t get balls to fall in their favor off the lefty. While the Tigers were without two of their best hitters in the lineup for the third game in a row — Jacob Berry and Cade Doughty sat out again, nursing lingering injuries — they still had some of their best batters up for the challenge.

Dylan Crews has hit .407 against lefties, and Gavin Dugas, Saturday's designated hitter, has hit .357. But without Berry, the Tigers were without someone who has hit .375 against lefties this season.

Missing Berry and Doughty hadn’t mattered too much in LSU's opening game in Hoover against Kentucky on Wednesday night, when the Tigers posted an 11-6 victory. Even against No. 1 Tennessee the night before, LSU had rattled off the same number of hits as the mighty Vols (six), just not with runners on base or scoring position.

Defensively, Tigers struggled early on two different pitchers-covering-first plays, allowing Kentucky to reach base twice: once in the first and once in the second.

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In the first, Devin Harris IV hit a bleeder to Tre’ Morgan, who fielded the ball and hesitated, with both starting pitcher Jacob Hasty and Drew Bianco running to first to help tag the bag. Instead, Morgan sprinted to first in attempt to get the out himself, but he didn’t make it in time. That RBI single put Kentucky ahead 1-0.

The second came when Eric Reyzelman was on the mound in the third. Kentucky cleanup hitter Chase Estep lined one to Morgan, and Reyzelman ran to first trying to tag the bag with his toe when he received the toss from Morgan. He took a second step to try to insure the force out, but the second step went past the bag.

Reyzelman had relieved Hasty in the first inning. Hasty, making his first start, had gotten himself in a jam after leadoff hitter John Thrasher lined a single through the left side on a full count, advancing to second on a wild pitch. He scored on Harris’ single. After Estep and Ritter walked, Harris scored from third on a wild pitch to make it 2-0.

Hasty loaded the bases again when he walked Oraj Anu before Reyzelman came on in relief, striking out Adam Fogel and inducing a groundout to keep the Wildcats from driving more home.

The Wildcats (33-25) scored their third run in the second on a solo homer by Jacob Plastiak. 

Kentucky broke through again in the fourth and fifth innings. Reyzelman loaded the bases after giving up a pair of singles and a walk, which set up Hunter Jump’s sac fly. Bryce Collins relieved Reyzelman, allowing a single, and a groundball RBI made the score 5-0.

The Wildcats added two more runs in the fifth after Fogel’s shot to left field and Jump’s RBI single made it 7-0.

The Tigers lineup finally broke through against Bosma in the seventh, when Morgan’s line drive ate up Harris and second, allowing him to reach on error. McManus launched a triple to the center-field wall to score him, but Thrasher collided with the wall, face-first, freezing as he fell backward on the warning track.

A stretcher came out, but after a few minutes, Thrasher was able to walk, hanging on the shoulders of the medical team as he was helped off the field.

The Tigers were retired in order through the next two innings by Wildcats' Daniel Harper. 

Paul Gervase finished the job on the mound as LSU’s fifth pitcher of the day.

"I think we need to get home tonight. We've been gone for 11 or 12 days on the road," Johnson said. "I think today we got outside of ourselves a little bit and can't let that happen in the NCAA tournament. You just really have to stay focused. A little bit of a painful learning experience with today's game." 

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