LSU’s Jordan Romero momentarily ended the offensive futility on the first pitch he saw from Alabama reliever Dylan Duarte.
Before the at-bat Saturday, the Tigers were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position as Alabama scored a doubleheader sweep in the teams’ Southeastern Conference-opening series — and the Tigers were 1-for-22 with runners on base.
Romero singled back up the middle, reaching second base on a futile throw to home plate, where Bryce Jordan slid in for the Tigers’ first run in almost 15 innings.
Romero clapped his hands, trying to reignite a stagnant offense gone with the wind for most of Saturday and with it any energy or enchantment Alex Box Stadium can provide.
Chris Reid worked a full-count walk to carry the momentum. Cole Freeman stepped in, a “second leadoff hitter,” as his coaches term him at No. 9 in the order.
He lined softly to third base, stranding two more runners, two of 11 LSU runners stranded in its 4-3, Game 2 loss. LSU had left seven runners on in the first game, a 6-0 defeat that gave its starter, sophomore Alex Lange, his first loss as a collegian.
It was the first SEC doubleheader sweep by an opponent in Alex Box Stadium since Mississippi State accomplished the feat in 1989. It sent the Tigers to their first 0-2 conference start since 2011.
In both games combined, LSU failed to get a runner to third base with less than two outs and hit .090 with runners in scoring position. In the second game, just two of Alabama’s four runs were earned.
“Today was a tough day for us, obviously,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “It was tough conditions. We had 13 hits in (the second) game and scored three runs. We had opportunities all day long in both games, and we just didn’t get a lot of clutch hits. We had a few — not enough obviously.”
Romero’s single was one of two hits in 22 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The other came from Beau Jordan in the ninth inning of the second game, continuing a rally that came hours too late.
Beau Jordan drove in Jake Fraley with an RBI single to cut a 4-1 Alabama lead to 4-2. Antoine Duplantis scurried home from third on a wild pitch in the next at-bat to get the Tigers within one.
But Mike Papierski stranded Beau Jordan at second base with a routine popup to third, ensuring the Crimson Tide’s first series win in Alex Box Stadium since 1996.
“We were ready,” said No. 6 hitter Bryce Jordan, who was 2-for-7. “I don’t think we came out here unprepared. … We just have to come through in the clutch. Me, especially, being in the middle of the lineup. We’ve just got to get those runners in.”
The wind howled from left to right throughout the day, making hitting conditions — on paper — unsavory. The Tigers hit 11 balls in excess of 95 mph in the first game, per TrackMan technology, but LSU mustered just five hits while flying out 12 times.
Alabama, which entered the series with the conference’s second-lowest ERA, reasserted its prowess. Starters Geoffrey Bramblett and Jake Walters combined to scatter 11 hits in 11.2 innings, allowing just one earned run. LSU did get seven hits off four Tide relievers, but it had just the two runs in the ninth inning of the second game to show for it.
“We just left too many opportunities out there,” Mainieri said. “And it comes back to bite you.”
Mental gaffes dotted the second game. Bryce Jordan failed to swing on a hit-and-run, leading to an easy caught stealing of Papierski, who had led off the second inning of Game 2 with a single. Kramer Robertson took his eyes off the pitcher and was picked off an inning earlier after opening the game with a single.
With his team down 3-1, Bryce Jordan led off the eighth inning with a single but was easily gunned down trying to stretch it into a double.
“When you have players that have not played in these kind of environments that much, sometimes they have to make mistakes to learn and to be able to grow and we did,” Mainieri said. “You can always learn, but we’re not trying to learn. We’re trying to win. And sometimes making those mistakes can prevent you from winning.”
The team’s usual on-field meeting moved indoors on a chilly night, but the players reiterated a simple message handed down from Mainieri and the team’s veterans.
“If we keep our heads down, it’s not going to get any easier,” Robertson said. “You’re facing good teams and good pitchers. It’s the SEC. You’ve got to take it one day at a time and try to win that day. We’ll continue to get better.”
Editor's note: This story was changed on March 20, 2016, to correct an incorrect reference to the score of Game 2.