It's a bitter pill to swallow to watch one of the finest LSU SEC pitching performances in recent years become a footnote. But that's unfortunately all we have. Alex Lange grew up big time on Saturday Night, going a full 8IP, giving up just 2 runs on 3 hits and striking out an amazing 13 batters. For comparison, that's more than Kevin Gausman ever had in his LSU career. It was also impressive to see him get better as the night went on. After the 7th inning, Lange was at 101 pitches and most guessed he was done for the night. Coach Mainieri would say postgame that Lange convinced him to let him go out for the 8th, where struck out the side for his best inning of the night. It's not a far stretch to say Lange may have earned his way into the #1 spot in the rotation.
But the game was not over. I'm not going to criticize the decision to have Jesse Stallings come in for the 2nd time this weekend. It's something that's worked successfully multiple times this season and no one had any reason to believe it wouldn't work again. Ole Miss managed to get a hit and a walk out of 2 guys who had been silent at the plate, and that was too much ammo to put in front of Sikes Orvis. A decent liner into right for a single was all the Rebels needed to tie the game, erasing Lange's win and giving Stallings his first blown save of the year. Zac Person, who was ready quickly thanks to his un-needed prep to take over in the 8th, was able to prevent any more damage and tried to rally the dugout with 2Ks that got the crowd alive. Ole Miss and LSU would not make much progress on each other in the extras, with the Rebels leaning on relievers Scott Weathersby and Wyatt Short while LSU emptied everyone out of the bullpen with Parker Bugg, Collin Strall, and Kyle Bouman seeing action. LSU's defense saved the day multiple times in extras, including this spectacular dive by Stevenson.
It remained a tense affair until the 14th, when our old enemy Orvis came back to the plate. Bouman had started the inning with a walk and Orvis saw his shot. He sent a liner all the way to the wall in right center for a double, scoring a run to put Ole Miss ahead. Bouman was immediately yanked for Austin Bain, but the damage kept coming. Orvis moved to 3rd on a ground out, then Errol Robinson, who had been getting some jeers from the students in right, shot a liner right at them for a single to bring Orvis home. The 2 run lead looked insurmountable for an offense that had done practically nothing since the 4th inning. LSU would manage to get the bases loaded with 2 outs, and Jake Fraley came to the plate. Fraley entered the day batting .326, but had been 0-6. You would hope that a guy who was slugging .522 with 3 doubles and 3 triples would be able to finally break through against a different pitcher (Will Stokes, who was brought in after LSU had gotten the tying run on) and he very nearly did. A screaming shot that barely stayed fair left his bat to the left corner, but Kyle Watson was on his motor as soon as it left the bat and was just able to catch it in the air to end the game, 5-3 Ole Miss.
Maybe you bring someone in off the bench to bat for Fraley, but I'm not sure who. Sciambra, Robertson, and Byrd had already been used in earlier failed rallies. Michael Papierski was available, but do you really want to put a freshman currently batting .167 into that situation? The real problem, of course, was that Ole Miss pitching, including a good start from Brady Bramlett and their excellent relievers, silenced LSU at the plate for far too long. It wasnt even really a situation where LSU was stranding chances, with only 10 LOB for the night, 3 of which came in the bases loaded final frame. I was worried that LSU's lineup being full of .300+ hitters was a bit of fools gold and that certainly looked to be the case last night.
But for all the pain of losing a 14 inning game, even one to those damned dirty Rebels, it has to be put aside. Sunday calls with an opportunity to take the series and Godfrey will be going up against whoever Ole Miss can find to put in a uniform. The SEC isn't for teams who can't handle a heartbreaker, so it's time to go out there and take it from them.