It all started well enough. In the nightcap Tuesday against Tennessee, Jake Latz was on the bump an elimination game and threw for two strong innings, only giving up one lone hit. Austin Bain picked up the duties but after a clean third inning, the implosion began. At first it was a single run in the fourth and another in the fifth against Russell Reynolds, then in the sixth Tennessee dropped two runs on LSU, extending their lead to 4-0.
Faced with the dishonor of being eliminated on the first day, LSU put their foot in the dirt and pushed back, starting with a Bryce Jordan double to lead off the bottom half of the seventh inning. Deichmann was able to double Jordan home and Freeman brought him home with a single right back up the gut. Freeman was advanced and scored by another pair of singles from Duplantis and Robertson.
LSU was still down a run after a scoreless eighth from both teams but tied the game when Deichmann deposited a 2-2 fastball into the woods beyond right center. Jordan of the Beau variety drew a walk and was advanced to second on a sac bunt by Cole Freeman before Brennan Breaux took his place on the basepaths. Breaux took third on a wild pitch and Tennessee intentionally walked the bases full to establish a force in hoped of a double play. That was a bold move because it brought up Kramer Robertson, perhaps the clutchest bat in the LSU lineup. With a 2-2 count, Kramer laced a single over third base, walking off Tennessee and advancing his team into the double elimination portion of the bracket.
As a reward for LSU's late inning heroics, the Tigers drew Florida. Again. And this time, the Gators picked up a rally owl to counteract Daniel the Possum, because appropriating something that
DBU LSU does that is fun and organic is just a Florida tradition now.
Because in the end, Florida does want to be LSU. In the grand scheme of things they haven't won a damn thing while LSU has sat on the aluminum throne six times. Nobody ever tried to copy a loser.
The eventual SEC record five hour game got off to a rocky start for Alex Lange and LSU, starting with back to back doubles followed by a triple to jump Florida out to a 2-0 lead. Lange couldn't locate his curve at all and wound up facing a bases loaded situation with one out before bailing himself out with back to back strikeouts. That first inning would haunt Florida as Lange would clown on the Gators for six more innings, hanging 11 Gators up to dry.
However, AJ Puk demonstrated equal command of the LSU battery, striking out seven and frustrating Tigers all night. LSU finally got to him in the eighth, the deepest Puk has ever gone into a game. After Freeman flew out, Twonnie doubled down the left field line and Fraley singled, with a throwing error scoring Twonnie and moving Fraley to third. Robertson knocked Fraley in on a fielder's choice before stealing second and advancing to third on a wild pitch. Bryce Jordan knocked in Robertson to end the scoring for the inning.
LSU had exploded for three runs to pull in front of the Gators, but the last three outs are the hardest outs in baseball, and Buddy Reed lead off the inning by placing a ball on the left field line than Brennan Breaux dropped. It was initially ruled foul, but after review it was correctly changed to a double. Reed was advanced to third on a sac and scored on a single to right field.
And so there were extras and the game wore on well into the night. Jesse Stallings came on to pitch and in the 11th inning faced the mother of all jams. After two walks and a perfect bunt, the bases were loaded with no outs. In a move to sell out and place all his chip on the table to avoid a walk off, Paul subbed Trey Dawson in for Jake Fraley in center and placed him in the middle of the infield, giving LSU five infielders.
And it worked. After a weak popout, Jonathon Liput lined to Chris Reid at third who was able to dive to the bag and double up the runner on third.
In the 14th Bryce Jordan lead off the inning with a throwing error but was out on a fielder's choice induced by Chris Reid. Brennan Breaux drew a walk to put the go ahead run in scoring position. After five production-less at bats (and 13 innings of work behind the plate), Papierski was pinch hit for by Jordan Romero, who was at the time in an 0-17 slump. Because baseball is a stupid sport that doesn't make any sense, Romero Texas League'd the first strike he got into shallow right field, allowing Reid to score. Freeman would do the same to the left side, tacking on an insurance run that would not be needed.
Stallings may not have been masterful Wednesday night, but his heroics ended up saving the bullpen for LSU as he pitched a career high five innings, with somehow all of them scoreless.
Thursday night LSU played arch rivals Mississippi State and who I personally think is the best pitcher in the nation, Dakota Hudson. However the experience of Jared Poche' won out over talent.
LSU opened their account in the third when three straight singles from Drank, Twonnie, and Fraley netted the Tigers a run. The Tiger picked it up again when Bryce Jordan singled and was advanced on the sac/throwing error combo from his brother. A fielder's choice moved Bryce to third, where he scored on a sac fly from Papierski. Freeman reached on another throwing error that allowed Deichmann to third, where he scored on a Duplantis single. The Tigers tacked another on in the fifth when the Brothers Jordan singled back to back after a Chris Reid walk to load em full for Deichmann, who singled up the middle to score Reid.
State would claw back after Duplantis dropped an easy pop out to allow Reid Humphreys to second. Not that it would matter, as Jacob Robson would drop a triple to left center. A single up the middle would score him, and State cut the lead to two. But baseball likes to twist the knife, and in the bottom half of the inning the exact same error happened, allowing Bryce Jordan on before his brother was hit by a pitch. A wild pitch moved them both and an expertly placed bloop single by Michael Paperski scored them both. Cohen was pleased.
With the win, LSU played themselves into an off day. But this is the part of the tournament everyone hates and for the second straight year Florida, a team with a loss, eliminated LSU, a team without a loss, in a one run game on Semifinal Saturday. Hometown boy Caleb Gilbert threw strong for LSU, Scott Moss for Florida threw better. Florida broke the deadlock in the bottom of the sixth when Chris Reid fielded a ball instead of letting it roll foul, bottling himself up. Mike Rivera doubled to put the Gators up for good.
Winning the SEC Tournament would have been nice, but in the long run it's just a last practice run before the regionals start. As of writing, LSU has been confirmed to be a regional host, but we're awaiting word on a national seed. I think LSU's magical run into the tournament was enough to warrant a national seed, but if the committee doesn't see it that way then that's fine. I guarantee you nobody wants the possibility of a possum infestation in their park.