LSU came to Hoover needing to improve it’s resume and impress the selection committee enough to earn a post season hosting bid. South Carolina, the last seed in the SEC Tournament, would put up a strong fight, but thanks to a steady offense and a great relief outing by Devin Fontenot, the Tigers will get to stay in Hoover for a few more days.
Things started off well as Josh Smith hit the 2nd pitch of the game for a huge lead off home run that cleared the back fence in the Hoover Met’s cavernous right field. The celebration would be short lived as some strange baseball events in the 2nd inning would put LSU in a big hole. With 1 out, a routine ground ball got stuck in the webbing of 2nd baseman Brant Broussard’s glove, gifting USC a single. The next batter got on via catcher’s interference in a scary moment where Saul Garza reached too far forward on a pitchout and took the full force of a swing to his left hand. Cole Henry, while showing great velocity in the low to mid 90s, showed a lot of rust and started to lose his control, giving up a 2 RBI double and an RBI single. He was relived for Matt Beck with 2 outs, but the Gamecocks would tack on a 2 RBI single to deep center field before LSU could get out of the inning, now trailing 1-5.
It suddenly felt like LSU’s trip to Hoover would be cut disastrously short. LSU had not come back from a deficit of more than 3 runs all season. However, the Tigers kept fighting and slowly chipped their way back as South Carolina’s league-worst team ERA was on full display. In the bottom half of the 2nd, LSU loaded the bases with a single, a HBP, and a walk. Cade Beloso then cashed in 2 runs with a single to right. In the 4th, Hal Hughes was hit by a pitch and then advanced to 3rd on back to back wild pitches before Josh Smith would single him home. A double from Antoine Duplantis moved Smith to 3rd and another wild pitch brought him home. Daniel Cabrera tacked on another RBI single and LSU had retaken the lead 6-5. The Tigers tacked on 2 more RBI singles from Duplantis and Beloso in the 5th to stretch the lead to 8-5.
While the batting was fighting it’s way back, Devin Fontenot had almost completely silenced the Gamecocks. He started the 3rd inning for LSU and held US to just 1 hit over the next 4.1 IP, with 4 strikeouts. After giving up a HBP and a walk in the 7th, Todd Peterson, Hoover Hero, came in to close the game out. A lead off walk for USC in the 8th would allow them to score a run on a sac fly, but that was all Peterson would allow as he finished the night with 3 stirkeouts and collected his 3rd save of the year in the 8-6 win.
It was a day for chalk in Hoover as the higher seeded teams won all of the opening round matchups, a first for the current tournament format. It was also a day where the western division swept the east. South Carolina’s loss continued an ignoble streak, as the 12 seed is now 0-7 in the current tournament format in Hoover.
LSU now advances to the double elimination segment of the tournament. Entering yesterday, predictions still held LSU as a #2 seed in the NCAA tournament (with the intriguing possible destination of the UCSB-Las Vegas regional) as I and others still believe LSU needs at least one more win this week to grab a hosting seed. Their first shot comes tonight against National Seed lock Mississippi St, who LSU had great success against earlier this season in Starkvegas. LSU will be starting Eric Walker, who had a great 7.0 IP, 4H,0 R, 2 BB, 3 K outing against the Bulldogs earlier this year. The game will be the last of Wednesday’s quadruple header, so expect another late start time.
#LSU head coach Paul Mainieri hardly downplays the Tigers' 8-6 win over South Carolina Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in Hoover. @WAFB pic.twitter.com/bOZotwIflm— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) May 22, 2019
#LSU Devin Fontenot says he knew the Tigers needed him today. Fontenot was brilliant, firing 4 1/3 shutout innings, allowing one measly hit and striking out four in #LSU 8-6 win over South Carolina in Hoover. pic.twitter.com/Hi423vPLRc— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) May 22, 2019
#LSU Josh Smith shares his thoughts on leading off the game with a home run and trying to lock up an NCAA regional at Alex Box Stadium. pic.twitter.com/0Kjy5dE27d— Jacques Doucet (@JacquesDoucet) May 22, 2019