It was billed as a pitchers' duel between two outstanding young pitchers but ended up being a battle of bullpens. Anthony Ranaudo uncharacteristically couldn't find the strike zone and only lasted 3 2/3. Danny Hultzen couldn't get our guys out and he was out after 3. Despite some anxious moments, LSU used a ton of singles and two big blasts by Sean Ochinko and Ryan Schimpf along with relief performances from Paul Bertuccini, Austin Ross, Chad Jones, Louis Coleman (!), and Matty Ott.
More after the jump.
It was really a very good game. Both teams made good defensive plays and got some timely hitting. LSU took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Dean, Gibbs, and Mahtook strung together consecutive hits to plate one run. As would be a running them early (but not late), LSU missed an opportunity for a bigger inning and left two men on base.
Anthony Ranaudo cruised through the first with a 1-2-3 inning, and Hultzen appeared to settle down with a very quick bottom of the second inning. Ranaudo got through the 2nd with help from a tremendous diving catch by Mikie Mahtook. His control problems were starting to show, however. Virginia got the run back in the 3rd with a double and two outs that advanced the runner.
LSU took its second lead with 2 runs in the bottom of the 3rd on hits by Lemahieu and Schimpf, followed by a sac fly by Dean and a base hit by Gibbs that gave LSU a 3-1 lead. Again, the Tigers left runners on, as Helenihi flied out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
Virginia hitters chased Ranaudo in the next inning and plated one run. At this point, it would be a bullpen struggle.
Paul Bertuccini came in and finished off the 4th with LSU still ahead 3-2. Bert struggled in the 5th inning, giving up a solo home run and a couple singles. Mainieri brought in projected 3rd starter Austin Ross, who finished the 5th, but LSU was now behind 4-3. That deficit would not last, as LSU finally stopped leaving a lot of runners on base. After Gibbs and Mahtook had back to back 1-out singles, Sean Ochinko laced a three-run home run off of lefty reliever Matt Packer over the left-centerfield fence, giving LSU a 6-4 lead.
Ross would maintain the lead with a quiet 6th inning, but would only get through part of the 7th, giving up a single, a home run, and another single. Fortunately, a caught-stealing erased the first single, or the game would have been tied. Chad Jones finished off the 7th inning. UVA's best middle reliever, Tyler Wilson, came into the game in the 7th inning as the third Cavalier pitcher of the game and had an easy 1-2-3 inning.
In a move that I liked at the time given the fact that we were in a 1-run game and have a day of rest between now and our second game, Mainieri made the call to Louis Coleman to maintain the lead in the 8th inning. He pitched about 15 pitches and got three outs, hitting a batter in the middle. The strategy worked perfectly as it was important for the Tigers to get through the 8th to get to Ott in the 9th, and I don't think it will affect him at all on Monday.
The Tigers extended the lead in their half of the 8th inning with a single by Helenihi, a hit-by-pitch by Nola that might have properly been a foul ball, a terrible botched hit-and-run that erased Helenihi, a single by Lemahieu that scored Nola, and a two-run home run by Schimpf to extend the lead to 9-5. Whatever Mainieri might have been thinking about leaving Coleman in to finish off the 9th went out the window with a 4-run lead. Matty Ott came in and allowed only 1 baserunner in the 9th before striking out the final hitter of the night.
Gibbs, Lemahieu, and Mahtook had 3 hits each. Schimpf and Ochinko hit the big home runs that gave us 5 of our last 6 runs. Every spot in the order got on base at least once, and only Nola and Mitchell failed to get a hit. We have to give credit to Ross for getting us through the 5th and the 6th without further damage. He struggled in the 7th, but those were big outs he got. Obviously, the 7 outs without a run scoring that Jones, Coleman, and Ott got us were huge as well.
We'll get Arkansas on Monday, and they'll probably have to go with a righty. Let's light 'em up. We'll have Coleman on the mound and I'd bet he can go 7 innings or more.