HOOVER, Ala. — Greg Deichmann held his bat, a stick that just sent an entire team’s frustration over eight futile, error-filled innings deep into the night.
He dropped it, albeit unwillingly, along the first-base line as the LSU baseball team’s dugout spilled onto the field in jubilation and he pumped his fist rounding the base.
“I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, to be honest,” Deichmann said, emotion nearly overtaking him.
There were no measures of distance, but Hunter Martin’s 2-2 pitch landed well into the trees beyond right-center field. Deichmann’s solo home run was the boost, the catalyst a lethargic LSU team so desperately needed all night against a scrappy but hapless Tennessee club.
Deichmann’s homer tied the game, which LSU once trailed 4-0. Beau Jordan drew a walk one batter later and advanced to second on Cole Freeman’s sacrifice bunt. His pinch runner, Brennan Breaux, scored on Kramer Robertson’s bases-loaded, game-winning single to give LSU a 5-4 win and keep their time in the Southeastern Conference tournament going.
“That was the hardest I’ve hit a ball ever,” Deichmann said. “I got the barrel on that. It was just the greatest feeling ever, especially given the situation.”
In all, the Tigers had three runners thrown out at home plate. They made three errors, too. Two came from Robertson, a newly minted first-team All-SEC shortstop.
But as the team rushed the field to meet their shortstop, tossing their rally hats about, none of it mattered. A win is a win in this conference, coach Paul Mainieri usually says. The Tigers lived to see another day after their first ever single-elimination, day-one game in this tournament.
“I’d rather not wait until the seventh inning to get things going,” Robertson said. “We just battled. We didn’t give up, and that’s how the season’s been going for us.”
It was hardly a work of art.
After falling behind Tennessee starter Will Neely in the fifth inning with runners on the corners, Freeman squared and sent a rocket to charging first baseman Jordan Rodgers.
Deichmann, who was running on contact, was thrown out easily trying to score the Tigers’ first run on the squeeze.
Antoine Duplantis followed with a two-out hit. As is the Tigers’ philosophy with two outs, Nolan Cain waved Beau Jordan in from second.
The burly left fielder was thrown out easily by Vols center fielder Brodie Leftridge, ending the only legitimate threat LSU posed to Neely in the first five innings.
“Still,” Deichmann said. “Those are hits. They grow momentum.”
Neely, who threw seven innings of one-run baseball when these teams met two weeks ago in Knoxville, did not allow a base runner to second until that frantic fifth.
LSU starter Jake Latz threw 28 pitches in his two scoreless innings — the longest outing of his career — allowing just Leftridge, Tennessee’s leadoff hitter, to reach base.
Latz retired the next six hitters he faced without issue, adding strikeouts of Jackson, Tennessee’s cleanup man, and No. 5 hitter Jordan Rodgers.
Sitting in the low-90s with a nicely commanded fastball, Latz mixed more of his changeup than he’d used in his other three outings to pair with a still-purring curveball.
Austin Bain and Russell Reynolds followed Latz, each issuing a run before Parker Bugg pushed the Vols’ fourth run across on a wild pitch that catcher Jordan Romero couldn’t corral in the sixth.
Entering after Robertson’s bases-loaded single in seventh cut the deficit to one — and got another Tigers runner thrown out at the plate — closer Hunter Newman threw two perfect innings with three strikeouts.
“That was really the key to the game,” Mainieri said.
Until Deichmann. He returned to the dugout, which for the first time in the 3 hours and 15 minutes possessed a pulse. Mainieri pulled him aside, reminding the sophomore of Matt Clark’s 2008 homer against South Carolina in this ballpark. Blake Dean’s grand slam against Alabama was also discussed.
“Your legacy is now established in LSU baseball history,” coach told player.
Deichmann, still struggling to compose himself, couldn’t fathom his place.
“That’s an unbelievable thing to hear,” he said.