LSU (18-9) dropped game one of their series with Texas A&M (18-9) by a score of 4-0 on a night where the LSU offense went missing almost entirely.
Game ones in SEC conference play are often pitcher’s duels. Tonight’s game between Texas A&M and LSU was no different. Lange struck out twelve and walked one while allowing nine hits in eight innings of work. On the flip side of the coin, Texas A&M’s Brigham Hill struck out seven and walked two, but only allowed three hits.
LSU’s offensive woes continued as the Tigers struggled with Aggie pitching, not send a runner to second base until the very last frame.
“Hitting is contagious, but so is not hitting,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri flatly stated after the game when asked about the team-wide hitting slump.
Texas A&M broke the scoreless tie in the fifth inning when Nick Choruby hit a home run to left that scored Coll Stanley.
Ahead 2-0, A&M threatened again in the sixth. Lange allowed two singles sandwiching a strikeout and a wild pitch put them both in scoring position. Lange hunkered down and struck out the next two batters to escape the jam, his seventh and eighth strikeouts of the night.
While A&M was recording a hit in every inning off of Alex Lange, between the third and sixth inning Brigham Hill retired 10 straight Tiger batters. In the seventh Lange pushed back, striking out the side to run his total to the night to 11.
“I feel for those guys because I know how bad they want it to happen and how hard they work”, Lange said of the lack of support from his offense. “I know they’re working their butts off every day, in the cages an hour and half before practice even starts.”
But the LSU offense couldn’t answer Lange’s call. Antoine Duplantis drew a leadoff walk to start the LSU seventh, but LSU failed to advance him despite working with no outs.
Lange found himself in another jam after conceding a leadoff double in the eighth, but after a groundout moved the runner over, he recorded his 12th strikeout of the night and induced a groundball to escape the jam and inject life into the crowd.
“If you pitch yourself into a jam, you have to get out of it or else it’s going to be a short night for you,” Lange said of his many daring escapes in a losing effort.
LSU carried that momentum into the bottom half of the eighth with Beau Jordan’s first pitch Texas Leaguer into left field to really get the crowd rolling. But that momentum was soon snuffed out with Jake Slaughter’s double play ball to short. Papierski walked after the deflating two out play but that would be all for LSU.
Lange was pulled for the ninth inning after his 12 strikeouts to one walk on nine hits, only one of which scored runs. In came Matthew Beck, and then the wheels came off. An error from Cole Freeman on an easy grounder let the leadoff man on and then a single and walk loaded them up with no outs. Beck struck out the next man up, but gave up a two run single that allowed the Aggies to double their lead. Beck was pulled for Nick Bush, who got out of the inning without any further damage, but the hole was too deep.
“I still felt confident going into the ninth inning that if we would have held them there in the ninth with a two run lead that sooner or later we would have come out of it,” said Mainieri. “But unfortunately we gave up the two runs that separated the game and couldn’t come out of it.
The LSU ninth began with a leadoff single from Cole Freeman and he promptly moved to second on defensive indifference, the first time a Tiger reached scoring position all night. Freeman moved to third on a pop out but couldn’t cross home as the Tiger offense ran dry to end the game.
LSU is in the middle of a troubling offensive rut, and for whatever reason this one looks especially difficult to climb out of. In times like these, Mainieri is looking for anything to tick favor and momentum LSU’s way.
“We just got to get some confidence going,” Mainieri explained after the game. “And obviously the older guys have to lead the way. They have to step up and be the guys for us. To score runs, it takes one through nine. Through tonight, we haven’t been aggressive enough and need to be more confident.”
“This happens,” Kramer Robertson replied when asked about the team’s struggles. “Each yeah that I’ve been here, I’ve been through it. There always seems to be a point where we struggle a little offensively. But every year we’ve come out of it.”
And then Kramer Robertson the leader emerged. “I need to relay that message to some of the younger guys. It’s baseball, it’s a cruel sport, and it can break you and rub your face in the dirt.”
“Tough times don’t last, tough people do,” Robertson ended with, a sentiment that his coach echoed.
“Feeling sorry for yourself is not going to get the job done. You got to go up there and get back after it.”