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LSU Wins Slugfest Against Southeastern 11-6

LSU pulls away from Southeastern to advance to catbird seat.

Steven Franz / LSU Athletics

LSU (45-17) came out on top of a slugfest with Southeastern (37-21) Saturday night when they beat their opponents from down Florida Boulevard 11-6 in the Baton Rouge Regional’s second round winner’s bracket game.

Southeastern came out throwing haymakers against LSU and ace Alex Lange, but LSU was able to outlast the Lions assault and throw their own against Southeastern’s own ace, Mac Sceroler.

Watson was playing out of his wiry little frame, hitting two home runs in Saturday night’s win to run his total for the regional to four in two games, accounting for seven runs batted in.

Ryan Byers opened the game by absolutely destroying an Alex Lange pitch, dropping it just past the camera well in left center field. Before most fans had found their seats, Southeastern was ahead. Alex Lange got out of the inning with three straight fly ball outs, but every one of them were absolutely crushed and Lange was lucky that the park plays so large in the gaps.

Alex Lange himself was blunt about his shortcomings tonight.

“Honestly, the team picked me up tonight. That's what teammates do. Wasn't in command of the fastball today. Talked about it all year. It was terrible (tonight). On my breaking ball I think I was 9 out of 28 on first pitch strikes, pitching behind. When you pitch from behind in the postseason, these teams can hit, and they did. They hit the ball.”

LSU pulled ahead in the bottom half of the inning after Kramer Robertson walked after being down in the count 0-2. He advanced on a wild pitch and scored on a Cole Freeman single up the middle. Freeman moved to second on the throw home and that would later allow him to score on Greg Deichmann’s defeat of the horseshoe shift to give LSU the lead. Deichmann himself advanced on a wild pitch and balk with two outs, but those are just details that don’t really matter, because Josh Smith would dig in and absolutely destroy a ball 397 feet away from home plate, well over the wall in right center to give LSU a 4-1 lead. The ball was as much of a no-doubter as they come, 100 miles per hour off the bat with a 26 degree launch angle.

“Sceroler left a changeup up,” Smith said of his monster shot. “He’s a good pitcher, I just capitalized on his mistakes.”

Southeastern scrapped back in the second with back to back singles from Webb Bobo and Derrick Mount. After his single Webb Bobo stole second, which not only proved that Bobo does indeed run the dang ball but it also put him in a position to score on Mount’s single. Mount also stole second base, which he would take advantage of when Daniel Wasinger singled up the middle, scoring to pull Southeastern within one. Jacob Seward singled and advanced to second on the throw down to third.

What happened next was as perfect as you can play the game of baseball. Ryan Byers laid down the bunt on the safety squeeze and he was out at first, but not only did Wasinger score from third, Seward never even considered tapping the brakes and scored all the way from second on a safety squeeze to give the Lions a 5-4 lead.

“We made a huge statement the first couple innings,” Southeastern head coach Matt Riser said. “We had some good energy going back and forth, and we knew, if we could get through the first couple innings and get settled in a bit, we had a shot to get things going there late.”

“That Southeastern Louisiana team and their coach Matt Riser know who they are and they play it to the ‘T’,” Paul Mainieri said. “They played really well offensively tonight.”

“I think that's just what good teams do,” Robertson said about LSU’s resolve to fight back. “When a team gets momentum, that's a hard thing to capture and a hard thing to stop them. When they start feeling good about themselves, being a veteran team, we're calm. We never panic, and we understand what we do well.”

LSU evened the game in the bottom of the third with a Zach Watson single. He promptly stole second base but the throw down to second was airmailed and Watson went to third easily. Beau Jordan then tied the game at five all with a single and an error on the left fielder.

“I was just so proud of our guys because they answered the pressure,” Mainieri said. “Every time Southeastern came in and scored, tied it or took the lead, our guys responded right back.”

Zach Watson later broke the deadlock in the bottom of the fifth with a leadoff towering moonshot reaching 145 feet in the air to left field that just kept on carrying.

“I said that he wasn't going to start the season in the starting lineup,” Mainieri said looking to his surging freshman center fielder. “But I felt if there was one player the on our team that at some point would be inserted in the lineup and would really spark our team, it would be Zach Watson. I think I was pretty prophetic on that. He's been a tremendous asset for our team.”

Josh Smith followed the home run by taking a hit by pitch, moving to second on Papierski’s second walk of the night. Sceroler was chased after that, going 4.1 innings before being relieved by Bryce Tassin. Tassin gave up a single to Slaughter to load the bases and Robertson singled in Smith. Freeman scored Papierski when he beat the back end of a double play ball to put LSU ahead 8-5.

Sceroler’s day ended with eight hits allowed to match with eight runs, earned, while walking four and striking out just two Tigers.

LSU went back to work the very next inning when Zach Watson let another one fly, his second of the game and fourth of the weekend, a two run blast scoring the previously walked Deichmann to make the lead grand slam proof.

Alex Lange was pulled after six innings where he allowed an uncharacteristic five runs, all earned, on eight hits while walking one and striking out six. It was the most runs he had allowed since the weird 22-9 game against Georgia to open SEC play, but he rebounded well with four straight shutout innings to close the night, allowing just two hits after the first two innings.

“Honestly, even though Alex got hit in the first two innings, I think this was one of his better starts,” Josh Smith said of his pitcher. “It shows what he’s about, he’s a competitor and let up five in the first two innings but then they have no shot at him after that. That’s what kind of guy he is. He settled in and gave up four shutout innings.”

“That’s the definition of Alex man,” reliever Zack Hess said about Lange. “It doesn’t matter what kind of stuff he has you know he’s going to go out there every single time and give you his best effort. He put our team in a great situation and really saved the bullpen and set us up nicely for tomorrow. He competed his heart out.”

Zack Hess came in for Lange and Taylor Schwaner pulled SLU back within four when he greeted Hess by taking him deep into the muggy Louisiana night. After that, Hess was sterling, allowing that lone run on that one hit while striking out four batters.

“I was hitting my spots pretty solidly except for that one jimmy I left over the plate but for the most part I was locating my stuff pretty well and we were doing a good job of keeping them off balance.

LSU pushed the lead back to grand slam proof when Kramer Robertson reached on a single and moved to second on an error. Robertson advanced to third on a ground out and scored from 90 feet away on a passed ball.

Robertson stepped to the plate five times Saturday night and four times he was the leadoff batter in the inning. He reached base every time, scoring two runs and knocking in one for himself.

With the win, LSU enters the catbird seat and awaits the winner of Sunday’s elimination game between Rice and Southeastern an hour after that game concludes. Southeastern will throw their traditional Sunday arm Carlisle Koestler in the must-win game against Rice.