Freshman starter Eric Walker shined for LSU (19-10) on Saturday but the bullpen blew a lead late as Texas A&M (19-10) won the series on a 9th inning rally.
Down 3-0 in the ninth, the Aggies got in business against Caleb Gilbert with a one out walk to Joel Davis and a single from George Janca. Gilbert beared down and struck out Logan Foster for a second out, but gave up an RBI single to Hunter Coleman to put Texas A&M on the board with runners at first and second.
And then Walker Pennington gave A&M the lead on a no-doubt blast to left field and all of a sudden, A&M was up on LSU 4-3 after being handcuffed for the entire game.
“That’s about as tough of a loss as you can have,” said a somewhat dejected Paul Mainieri after the game. “I feel so bad for Caleb and for the rest of the kids. We’re one out away from winning a series against a good team.”
I’d say you could have heard a pin drop in Alex Box Stadium after A&M took the lead, but the LSU faithful were too mortified to actually pick anything up. Around 8,000 people sat in stunned silence as A&M got LSU 1-2-3 in the ninth to take the game and the series.
Kramer Robertson was one of those people who were stunned.
“It’s just shocking. It hurts...you feel like the whole game you’re playing really well against their good pitcher and you’re playing good defense and the pitching is going well and you’re one out away...it’s never easy in this league.”
“And to have it taken out from under you with one out to go...it hurts. It hurts a lot.”
“I felt that we were going to do it in the bottom of the ninth with the heart of our order up,” Mainieri said. “It’s a tough game sometimes.”
If there was any positives to be taken away from the loss for LSU, it was freshman Eric Walker.
Walker allowed the first two batters on in the first and second inning before recording 1-2-3 innings four times in his seven inning outing, but in the second inning it nearly cost him. He allowed a leadoff single from George Janca, and recorded a strikeout before allowing another single and hitting a batter to load the bases with Aggies. He popped up Austin Homan before giving a huge strikeout to Nick Choruby that brought the grandstand to a roar. After that inning, he gave up just one hit, a two out single in the fifth inning.
Walker finished with seven innings pitched with only three hits and no runs allowed, striking out seven while only walking one.
“He pitched very courageously,” the LSU skipper said of the freshman starter. “He got in trouble and made some big pitches and ultimately he settled in. But he got to 110 pitches and that’s the most pitches he’s thrown all year and we had to take him out.”
After three innings of being no hit, LSU got up on the board in a big way. Antoine Duplantis lead off the fourth with a single and was promptly scored on Kramer Robertson’s no-doubt blast to left field. LSU added another run in the fifth when Beau Jordan walked to leadoff the inning, advancing on a wild pitch and a popout before scoring on Zach Watson’s single through the drawn in infield.
Outside of those two innings, A&M’s Corbin Martin held the Tiger bats in check, only allowing four hits - the same amount LSU pitching allowed for the Aggies until the 9th - and retired LSU in order in four innings of his eight inning outing.
Hunter Newman came in relief for Walker in the 8th and gave up a hit that was quickly erased via a Smith double play. Newman was the closer before he missed two weeks with a herniated disc and didn’t pitch in the ninth as he was being eased back into his starting role. In addition, he pitched in yesterday’s 7-4 victory and asking of anything more would have been pushing the bill health wise, according to Paul Mainieri.
That put Caleb Gilbert on the spot in the ninth to close it out.
“I let the team the down today,” Gilbert said. “I didn’t make the pitches when I needed to and I didn’t have the command that I would have like to have.”