LSU outlasts South Carolina to end Gamecocks’ run in Hoover at SEC Tournament

It is rare in our 21st-century era of society with cellphones and social media that we still experience mass confusion.

But on Saturday afternoon in LSU’s 12-11 victory in the SEC Tournament semifinals, South Carolina’s Blake Jackson stole home with two outs in the top of the 10th inning and, well, it took 18 minutes for another pitch to be thrown.

Fourteen minutes of replays and umpire huddles and a coaching ejection and absolutely no clarification by the umpires to the folks inside Hoover Met or to the TV crew.

To everyone inside the ballpark, the confusion made no sense. Jackson tried to steal home. LSU pitcher Griffin Herring saw the attempt, threw home and Tigers catcher Brady Neal tagged out Jackson 3 feet in front of the plate.

Then South Carolina coach Mark Kingston hopped out of the dugout to talk with the umpires. He said something convincing enough to get the four men in blue polos to huddle up. A few minutes later, with no word given to the crowd, LSU coach Jay Johnson ran up to the umps livid and was quickly ejected.

Shortly after, Kingston walked back to his dugout. He said a few words to Jackson then gave him a fist bump. Jackson exploded in excitement, hopping around the dirt, celebrating with his teammates as he urged the fans to get louder.

That was at 4:11 p.m. local time.

Still, no one knew what happened. Eventually at 4:20 p.m., the official scorer told those in the press box that Jackson scored because of a balk and that the batter, Parker Noland, would advance to first on catcher’s interference.

South Carolina led 11-10 on one of the most generous calls you’ll ever see.

But it was all for naught because in the bottom of the 10th inning, LSU’s Steven Milam blasted a two-run walk-off home run to give LSU the win.

It’s possible, though, South Carolina could have won the game in regulation.

Three outs from an improbable win, the demon of this South Carolina baseball team rose from the depths of Hoover and cursed it once more.

This Gamecocks’ team cannot run from errors.

It can play on a new day against a new team. It can insert a new pitcher. It can change its defense. It can bench a player in the middle of a game. It can try and run from the defensive scars. But they will keep appearing.

Just three outs from beating LSU on Saturday, LSU’s Alex Milazzo laid down a bunt with a man on base. South Carolina third baseman Lee Ellis fielded the ball, looked to throw the runner out out at third, but no one was covering. All good, Ellis still had an out at first.

Except he airmailed the throw over the head of 6-foot-4 first baseman Ethan Petry. The tying run scored. LSU won the contest an inning later.

The ironic part of the whole deal is Ellis was only in the game because starting third baseman Talmadge LeCroy was benched for poor defense. LeCroy wasn’t officially tagged with any errors, but there’s a good argument he committed two.

In the fourth inning, LSU’s Michael Braswell hit a two-out chopper right at him, but rather that square it up, LeCroy got on a knee and tried to field the ball outside his body. It darted past him and into left field. A few batters later, Hayden Travinski smacked a ball to third that LeCroy tried to backhand. It darted right past his glove.

LSU scored six runs in an inning that should’ve ended unceremoniously.

South Carolina, thanks to a Dalton Reeves’ home run and some timely hits, entered that frame up 8-0. Heck, the Gamecocks were on track to run-rule the Tigers and save their pitching staff for Saturday’s SEC Tournament Final, which South Carolina hadn’t advanced to in 20 years.

Instead, the Tigers had hope. They had life.

The Gamecocks (36-23) won three games in Hoover but fell one win away from reaching the championship game. They’ll return home to await their NCAA Tournament fate. The tournament’s selection show is noon Monday.

This story will be updated.