COLLEGE STATION, Texas — Kramer Robertson signed a young boy’s hat and turned toward the field, leaning against a dugout railing while looking at his cleats and tending to his pinkie finger, which had dislocated four times during Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Texas A&M.
“Not many people are going to come out of here with two wins,” Robertson said, surveying his Blue Bell Park surroundings one final time. “We got great pitching performances all three nights, and we just didn’t do that one little, extra thing to win the game. We didn’t get that one clutch hit, and they did.”
Each lasting five innings or more, LSU’s three starting pitchers surrendered a combined six earned runs against the Aggies. A&M came into the series leading the Southeastern Conference in four offensive categories and likely will rise to No. 1 in the country in some polls Monday after Florida dropped two of three games to unranked Kentucky.
Those strong starts were coupled with freshman closer Caleb Gilbert’s tenacity in Friday’s win — he ended the game on a three-pitch strikeout of preseason All-American Nick Banks with the tying run at third base — and Hunter Newman’s 2.1 innings of one-hit relief Friday and Saturday.
“Our pitching was outstanding all weekend,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “That gives you a lot of confidence. I’m proud of those guys. But you have to give them some run support, because one mistake can cost you the game. And that’s a tough way to pitch.”
The Tigers managed just two earned runs and five total in the three-game set. They put runners on base in 23 of the series’ 27 innings but stranded 26 of them. The Tigers finished the weekend 9-for-51 with runners on base.
Robertson rued execution — or the lack thereof. Hitting coach Andy Cannizaro often preaches “passing,” requesting that each hitter win his at-bat and pass the inning along to his teammate — who, in turn, hopefully will do the same.
“Just saying that this guy is not going to beat me,” Robertson said. “ ‘I’m going to win my at-bat and get it to the next guy.’ I thought we battled hard, but we just didn’t do enough to win the game.”
No such continuity existed in College Station, where LSU had consecutive hitters reach base seven times over the weekend’s 27 innings. Four of those seven instances came in Friday’s 3-2 win.
“You can’t just be free-swinging, trying to poke one in the gap somewhere,” said Greg Deichmann, who had a four-hit weekend, including two of LSU’s five extra-base hits. “You’ve got to realize where the runners are and when they’re in scoring position, what you have to do to drive those runners in.
“At times, we get big and swing out of the zone when we got guys in scoring position or need to get guys around. Those are the big moments that we need to be able to get those runners advanced and then get them in.”
This was just Deichmann’s second SEC series. Most of his fellow hitters are in a similar situation: adjusting to the country’s best baseball conference while playing for a program where moral victories are rarely accepted and with few veterans to glean insight from.
Pitcher John Valek III, the surprise of the early SEC season, is a senior in name only, having been in this program for nine months. He received one run of support — a Deichmann home run — in his second SEC start Saturday, when he handcuffed the conference’s leading offense over six innings of six-hit ball.
He, too, is assimilating.
“One thing I have learned in the SEC is that every game is going to be close. It’s going to be nail-biters; it’s who’s going to come up with the big hit or make the right pitch in a key situation,” Valek said. “I don’t know if we’re so much the underdog, but we may be flying under the radar a little bit. We just proved to ourselves that we can compete with anybody.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter, @Chandler_Rome