I'm not sure what the greatest regular season college baseball game in history is, but last night has to be damn close. In a game that would give LSU a series win over the #2 team in the nation, 2 of the country's best offenses battered two of the countries best pitching staffs for a combined 28 hits. In the end, LSU was just a bit better.
There's going to be a point where there needs to be some serious discussion about Alex Lange's progress this season. After the firecracker start and tying the single game K record for LSU, he's hitting the wall pretty hard. Whereas in March his fastball only seemed to gain velocity as the game went on, last night there were times when it had dipped into the 80's. Even in the 5th inning, were he performed the best with just a pop out and 2 Ks, his delivery was noticeably labored. I don't want to sound like I'm disappointed with the performance though. 8 hits and 5 runs with 7 Ks against the Aggies isn't great, but it's hardly a disaster for a Freshman on Friday night in the SEC.
A&M came out swinging just like they did Thursday night, getting 3 singles and a RBI in the first inning and continuing to needle LSU for a run here or there until Lange reached his wall in the 6th. If you want to know why A&M has one of the best offenses in the country, it's simple: They are as relentless as a tank. If you don't get a hold of them before they gain a head of steam, you're going to get run over. Thankfully, LSU's defense was fantastic enough to prevent A&M from having the Big Inning that they so often do. It wasn't perfect, but it was stellar enough in the right moments that A&M scored more than 1 run only once in an inning and the Aggies were forced to leave 12 men on base.
LSU's offense was stymied by Ryan Hendrix, right until the moment he cracked. The converted relief pitcher gave the longest outing from a start of his career, holding LSU to 2 runs on 6 hits through the first 6 innings, with 9 Ks. LSU has the least amount of Ks in the SEC going in to the weekend, but Hendrix managed to fool most of the lineup. If he keeps at it, that kid is going to be a monster to face in Hoover in May or next season in College Station.
If A&M's offense is a tank, LSU's is a screaming banshee whose hair is set on fire at just the right moment. Hyper aggressive is barley enough to describe how the Tigers are operating right now. 3 more stolen bases Friday and legging out risky, but valuable extra base hits that kept the A&M defense on edge and forced them into mistakes. Zardon's walk off on Thursday will be remembered, but the 7th inning rally on Friday was the true stuff of legends. 3 singles and an RBI, followed by an OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS SUICIDE SQUEEZE WHAT from Chris Sciambra for another run that finally chased Hendrix. Then Bregman got to be the Big Damn Hero by fighting through a 10 pitch at bat for a ground ball double into the left corner that scored 2 more and gave the Tigers the lead. Before the next pitch, Bregman got picked off at 2B, getting a little too greedy in the moment. People will point to this one mistake as a reason for LSU to be less aggressive. Those are people who's fear is not needed in Alex Box Stadium.
GET ON THE DAMN BUS
After Reynolds had done a stellar job in relief in the 6th and 7th, Newman and The Defense kept the Aggies from scoring in the 8th, with Foster doing his Superman thing again. LSU thanked A&M for their lack of scoring by continuing to bash what is a great A&M bullpen. Single, RBI Double that went to 3B on an error, RBI triple from a resurgent Jake Fraley, and an RBI ground out for Foster. LSU had amassed a 4 run lead entering the top of the 9th, only needing to hold on. A&M wasn't dead yet though. Double and a single put 2 men on with 1 out when a ground ball to 3B was mishandled by Hale who whiffed on a behind the back catch that might have ended the game instead of taking the sure catch that would have gotten an out but probably scored the run anyway. It put the crowd back on edge, but the LSU defense was like "Nah man, we got this" Logan Nottebrok grounded into a nice 6-4-3 double play and then the celebration did commence.
I've got no idea what it sounded like on TV, but that felt like the best regular season atmosphere ever in the New Box. Only the postseason compares to how amped the crowd was last night. There were moments where thing were quite, sure, but the folks in the stands could smell the blood in the water as well as the team did and they became monumentally unhinged at the right moments. Last night was why kids come to LSU. Because this is the best damn place on the planet to play college baseball at it's highest skill level.