LSU lost game one of the Knoxville Super Regional to Tennessee 4-2 Saturday night. There were two key contributing factors to LSU falling on the brink of elimination (again), and both happened in the sixth inning.
The first was Cade Doughty misplaying what should have been a pretty cut and dry groundout. With runners on second and third with one out, Doughty fielded a chopper at third. He looked to see if there was a play at home, and then out the corner of his eye he saw the runner breaking for third behind him. He turned to try and apply the tag, but the runner was too far away and by the time he completed the 360 and made a throw to first, it was far too late.
The tying run would have scored regardless, but the real impact was felt when a fielder’s choice that should have ended the inning tied at 2 allowed another run to score and Tennessee to take a 3-2 lead. A tapper single through the infield then gave the Volunteers a 4-2 lead.
The second was the controversial decision to pull Ma’Khail Hilliard in favor of Javen Coleman. Hilliard was brilliant for LSU, throwing five innings of one-run ball where he only allowed three hits and stuck out six while walking one. In the sixth inning alone, Coleman allowed three runs on two hits and three walks.
Doughty’s decision was pretty cut and dry, he misplayed a ball pretty badly, but the decision to lift Hilliard for Coleman will be subject to hindsight and criticism for quite some time if LSU can’t win the next two games.
For what it’s worth, Coleman did rebound over the next two innings and after that RBI single only allowed one hit (albeit a double) and one walk while striking out four. LSU didn’t use another pitcher in relief of Coleman, which isn’t the worst possible fate with Marceaux and Labas left in the chamber.
LSU jumped ahead in the second inning as the rain began to fall heavily with a solo home run from Doughty, a lasered line drive over the left field wall. But the Vols got that run back in the third inning when a leadoff double came around to score on two consecutive groundouts from the eight and nine hole hitters.
The Tigers re-gained the lead in the fifth inning when Drew Bianco reached on a leadoff single, advanced to second after Cade Beloso was hit by pitch, stole third and then advanced home after a throwing error to third went wild.
LSU had a golden opportunity in the eighth and ninth innings, but failed to capitalize on either. Dylan Crews led off the eighth with a single, but Zach Arnold struck out and Tre Morgan whiffed on a hit and run for the second strikeout. Crews successfully had second stolen, but overslid the bag and was tagged out anyway, ending the inning.
In a night where the Tigers struck out 16 times, Morgan had an especially rough night, striking out in all four trips to the plate.
In the ninth, LSU put Gavin Dugas on with a leadoff single and Bianco reached on a one-out single, but Beloso grounded out and Jordan Thompson struck out to end the game.
LSU will try to even the series and force a rubber match tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.