After scoring just one run in the first 18 innings of SEC play, the LSU offense finally joined the party.
The Tigers were able to avoid an opening weekend sweep by Mississippi State with a 8-3 win, powered by a three-run third inning.
Up by a run after the stretch, pinch hitter Mitchell Sanford led off the inning with a single up the middle and was sacrificed and moved over to third. Tre Morgan scored the run to put the Tigers on top with a double to left center, and Brody Drost followed up with a two-run home to right center to put LSU ahead 6-3.
“Going into that at-bat I was just looking for something I could hit hard,” Drost said. “I knew I needed to get some cushion runs. He started me off with two changeups and threw a changeup low. So I was expecting the fastball and hit it hard.”
State answered with a run in the top of the eighth, but LSU put the game away for good with two runs in the bottom half of the inning with a two-RBI double from Jordan Thompson to give LSU an 8-3 advantage.
After two nights where LSU struggled mightily offensively, it was a much-needed breakthrough and confidence boost for the still-young LSU lineup.
“Our kids learned today that they can hit that type of pitching,” Mainieri said. “It’s not easy, but we hit it.”
Mainieri said that this game after LSU’s skid reminded him of games in 2008 and ‘09 when he felt that some games were must-wins to instill some confidence in the program.
“I kind of had that feeling today,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “You don’t want to start a conference season getting swept at home. I don’t care how good the team is, if you’re playing the Dodgers or the Yankees, you just don’t want to get swept at home in the opening series. I just though today was an important day, and there was something about today. I just felt very positive about it.
Despite the series loss, for the third straight game LSU got a great start from their pitcher. AJ Labas throwing six innings with two runs allowed on just four hits and one walk while striking out three on 83 pitches.
“This was the first time I pitched in the SEC since my freshman year when I pitched against Arkansas,” Labas said. “So it was one of things where I had to go and get the first inning jitters out and then settle down. I knew what I was able to do and I was able to stay in that groove for the rest of the game.”
Jaden Hill pitched well and kept the Tigers in game one until he ran out of gas in the eighth inning Friday night and Marceaux took a loss Saturday night despite not allowed an earned run.
“These three guys have carried the team,” Mainieri said. “That’s the one thing that’s been absolutely consistent. Out of 15 starts, we’ve had 13 unbelievable pitching performances by those guys. That’s just awesome. We knew going into our season that was going to be a strength of our team and it’s proven to be. Those three guys have been phenomenal and I hope they can keep it going all year. We’ll win a lot of games if they keep pitching that way.”
Ty Floyd pitched a great seventh inning where he struck out the side, and Devin Fontenot picked up the five-out save where he didn’t allow a single hatter to reach base.
Mississippi State scored the opening run in the first inning of the game with a Kamren James RBI single, but LSU scored two runs in the bottom of the inning without the help of a hit.
Morgan and Drost drew leadoff walks, with Drost being replaced by Crews on a fielder’s choice. Morgan then scored from third on a wild pitch. Crews then moved to third on another wild pitch, where he score on a groundout from Dugas.
The Bulldogs tied the game at two in the third inning when Scotty Dubrule and James hit a pair of doubles.
The Tigers then broke the deadlock with a two-out from run to left field from Gavin Dugas in the sixth inning.
LSU will return to action Tuesday night when the Tigers drive down to New Orleans to play Tulane at 6:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast online on ESPN+, which is a subscription service different from SECN+.