COLUMBIA, Mo. — Josh Smith sprinted toward home plate, the ball speeding behind him, catching up every millisecond.
In the 10th inning of a tie game at Taylor Stadium, Smith slid head first as Missouri catcher Chad McDaniel reached for the tag.
Almost four hours had passed since No. 8 LSU lost its starting pitcher in the first inning. LSU had taken the lead, then lost it, and here in extra innings, Smith stretched out his left hand.
He touched home plate before McDaniel's glove caught him. LSU won 12-11, taking the first game of the series.
Junior pitcher Zack Hess left with an injury in the first inning of LSU baseball's game Friday night against Missouri.
"I just want to say, what a ballgame," said Todd Peterson, who pitched three scoreless innings. "What a way to end a Friday night. Just crazy. Hell of a game."
Long before Smith's slide, it all seemed to crumble for LSU (24-11, 9-4 Southeastern Conference) in the first inning as Zack Hess walked off the field with athletic trainer Cory Couture by his side.
The junior had thrown 13 pitches. He strained his groin, and his start ended without recording an out.
Coach Paul Mainieri saw Hess limp during a 3-2 count against his third batter. Mainieri and Couture trotted to the mound.
"Is your arm OK?" Mainieri asked.
"I think I pulled my groin," Hess told him.
Hess threw one practice pitch. Then Mainieri took the ball, and Hess left the field. He had injured a muscle in his groin before the season, but Mainieri said this injury is on the opposite side of his body.
"I don't know how long he'll be out," Mainieri said. "We'll have to see how that goes over the next few days."
A tiny Spiderman toy sometimes watches over the LSU dugout.
In the dugout, sophomore right-hander Ma’Khail Hilliard, who had not thrown more than 41 pitches this season, readied to pitch. He entered with runners on first and second. Six runs scored before he recorded the first out. The first inning lasted 48 minutes.
Missouri (23-12-1, 5-7-1) led by three runs and LSU didn’t have its starting pitcher. But LSU retook the lead, scoring 10 runs — three unearned — against Missouri's Jacob Cantleberry, who entered with a 2.62 ERA.
Brandt Broussard drove in three runs, and Zach Watson, who later exited the game because Mainieri said a muscle “got real tight” in his leg, hit a two-run homer. LSU forced a pitching change in the fourth inning.
After freshman first baseman Cade Beloso drove in his third run of the game, LSU held a five-run lead.
His pitch count climbing toward 100, Hilliard gave up two singles in the fifth inning. One run scored on a wild pitch. Trent Vietmeier entered. Another run scored before he ended the inning.
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With two outs, Missouri tied the game as Vietmeier gave up a three-run home run. The game was tied 11-11, and that’s where the score stood after nine innings.
“This got pretty hectic,” Hilliard said.
In the 10th, after Smith hit a one-out single, Giovanni DiGiacomo approached the plate for his first at-bat. He was inserted when Watson left the game. DiGiacomo singled to right field. Third-base coach Nolan Cain waved Smith to third base. LSU had runners on the corners.
When Antoine Duplantis hit a slow ground ball at third baseman Austin James, Smith ran. James threw home, but Smith slid past the tag.
After the injuries and after losing the lead, at the end of a turbulent evening, LSU won.
“It's getting hard to overcome a lot of these injuries,” Maineiri said, “but we did tonight.”