LSU scored a run an inning for four straight frames and didn’t allow a hit until the 6th, but the bullpen couldn’t hold on and the Tigers fell victim to squandered opportunities in their 6-4 loss to Florida State in game one of the Baton Rouge Super Regional.
After Cole Henry was pulled after two innings and 41 pitches with arm soreness, Todd Peterson stepped in and put forth a heroic effort in what may be his last outing in the box. Peterson threw 4.1 innings in relief where he allowed two runs (all earned) on three hits and walks while striking out four.
“I just wanted to go as long as I could and help the bullpen,” Peterson said. “Keeping them in the game for as long as I could and give it everything I had.”
“It was heartbreaking to have to take Cole Henry out of the game with some arm soreness” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “But Todd Peterson came in and was absolutely heroic. It was phenomenal. I don’t know if he’s thrown 80 pitches in a game all year. But I thought he threw great and gave us the extension that we needed for having to take Cole out. And then you just felt like you had it set up the way you wanted with your bullpen.”
Those three walks were part of what sunk the Tigers, who finished with 10 free passes issued. Three of those walks came around to score, making up the difference between a 6-4 Florida State win and a 4-3 LSU victory.
“They put some great at-bats together, but we helped them a lot,” Mainieri said. “We just walked too many batters. And if we didn’t walk them, we were in a full count on everybody. Florida State’s know for trying to draw a lot of walks, they led the country in drawing walks for a few years. We knew that, we just have to be a little more aggressive in the strike zone and make them hit the ball more. Ultimately it came back to bite us.”
LSU opened the scoring when Daniel Cabrera led off the second inning by reaching on a hit by pitch. A walk to Cade Beloso moved him to second and then he advanced to third on a wild pitch, scoring on a bloop single from Brandt Broussard. The Tigers manufactured a second run in the next inning when Josh Smith led off with a double down into the right field corner, scoring on two straight groundouts.
Saul Garza reached on a dropped fly ball to open the fourth inning. After Cade Beloso hit a double, Garza paused halfway to third before retreating and advancing again. Florida State appealed with a throw to second and Garza was called out, revealing that he never touched second.
“There’s a lot of ebb and flow throughout the course of a game,” Mainieri said. “You know when you’re playing a good ball club you have to take advantage of opportunities...we’ve played an entire season and that’s the first time we’ve had a runner miss a base while he was running. It’s a basic fundamental of the game, touch the bases when you’re running.”
Regardless, Chris Reid hit a line drive off second baseman Nander De Sedas’ glove to score Beloso. The Tigers continued the streak in the fifth inning when Josh Smith hit a leadoff walk ahead of Duplantis, scoring on a third single from Daniel Cabrera.
Florida State reached the scoreboard in the sixth inning after a one-out walk to Drew Mendoza advanced to third on the Seminoles’ first hit of the day from Robby Martin. Matheu Nelson hit a chopper that Hal Hughes was able to knock down but couldn’t cleanly transfer out of his glove, allowing Mendoza to score without a throw to first for the final out.
The Seminoles tied the game in the seventh after a leadoff single to Tim Becker chased Peterson after 4.1 solid innings of relief. Trent Vietmeier came in and allowed a walk and three-run home run to Reese Albert after a 12-pitch at bat to tie the game at four.
“We ran the count full and obviously you just have to keep throwing fastballs in there,” Mainieri said. “He fouled off three or four pitches and then got around on one. We put ourselves in a tough situation every time we go into a full count against them. We’re not able to use off-speed pitches because you don’t want to walk them. Even still, we walked 10 batters today. We knew Florida State’s approach is a very patient approach. We played them two times two years ago in the College World Series and we knew that’s their style of play. We were prepared for it, we just had a tough time executing.”
FSU took the lead in the top of the eighth after a pair of walks and a single loaded the bases with one out. Against Zack Hess, Tim Becker was able to lift a lift a fly ball deep enough to left to score Nelson and put the Noles on top 5-4. FSU picked up an insurance run in the top of the ninth when Albert led off the inning with a solo home run, his second on the day.
LSU will have Sunday and Monday night in order to punch their ticket to Omaha, a tall task as teams who win game one have gone 34-6 in super regionals the past five years.
But for an LSU team whose season has been defined by rebounding from adversity, the Tigers are bullish on their chances of winning two in a row to extend their season.
“We’re going to have to win the first one before we can win the second one,” Smith said. “It’s been done here before, not many guys are too down on themselves, we get a chance another chance to play again tomorrow. We’re just going to come out and forget about today and get on with it.”
“I hurt for them, but we don’t have any time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Mainieri said. “We have to win tomorrow or the season’s over. They’re going to have a little time to digest it and get ready to go behind (Landon) Marceaux. Hopefully we’ll play just a little better.”