For the second consecutive weekend, LSU’s numbers didn’t reflect its number of victories.
Recall that against Georgia, Alex Lange didn’t last five innings in the first game and the Tigers were outhit in each of the next two games. Yet, LSU came away with a three-game sweep.
Last weekend in Gainesville, the Tigers’ team batting average was less than .240. Neither Jared Poche nor Eric Walker lasted five innings and LSU wasted a one-run complete-game outing from Lange. Yet, the Tigers salvaged the series finale from Florida by rallying for a 10-6 victory.
It is too early in the schedule to say that Sunday victory turned LSU’s season around. The Tigers still have 24 Southeastern Conference games remaining. But, coming back from a 6-2 deficit with six runs in the eighth and two runs in the ninth definitely boosted the LSU players’ spirits.
The Tigers were dominated in the first 23 innings by the Gators. LSU was outscored 14-1. The Tigers were a miserable 0-for-17 with runners in scoring position. That statistic explains why LSU was on the verge of getting swept by Florida.
The top four hitters in the Tigers batting order – Kramer Robertson (1-for-13), Cole Freeman (2-for-10), Antoine Duplantis (2-for-11) and Greg Deichmann (3-for-12) – were a combined 8-for-46. Freeman had the only RBIs with his two-run homer which put LSU ahead 8-6 on Sunday.
The Tigers’ three freshmen – Josh Smith (2-for-10), Zach Watson (4-for-12) and Jake Slaughter (4-for-10) – were a combined 10-for-32. Smith drove in four runs – two coming on the first of LSU’s three eighth-inning homers in the third game.
But, a case could be made that Beau Jordan was the reason the Tigers offense came around late in the series finale. Jordan got LSU’s first hit with a runner in scoring positon – a two-out, two-run single in the sixth inning. There is no doubt that RBI hit loosened up things for LSU hitters.
Two innings later, the Tigers exploded for six runs on three two-run homers. Once again, it was Jordan with the key hit. Jordan hit his first homer of the season which tied the score at 6-6.
Credit must be given to Jordan, who has hung in there after being benched. Three weekends ago, coach Paul Mainieri decided to put Watson in centerfield and move Duplantis to leftfield. Those changes put Jordan on the bench.
Mainieri didn’t even slide Jordan into the designated hitter’s role at first. In the series opener at Florida, Brennan Breaux was the DH. But, Jordan was given the designated hitter’s role in the second game of the series and he had a double off Brady Singer. Then, Jordan had his big day Sunday.
It may be time for Mainieri to leave Jordan in the DH role for a few games starting with the contest against Tulane at The Box on Tuesday (6:30 p.m. Central/SEC Digital Network).
Much of the attention on Sunday’s comeback focused on the awakening of the LSU bats. But, there would have been no come-from-behind victory were it not for the work of three Tigers relievers – Matthew Beck, Nick Bush and Caleb Gilbert.
Beck got the final out in the fifth inning and kept Florida’s lead at five runs. Beck then threw a scoreless sixth. Bush did give up a run in the seventh, but it was unearned. Then, Gilbert retired six straight batters after the Tigers went ahead.
On Monday, Mainieri had encouraging news about Hunter Newman’s back. Newman played catch Sunday and threw from in front of the mound Monday. Mainieri said that Newman felt no pain after throwing Monday. There is a chance that Newman will be available for this week’s Texas A&M series.
So far, Gilbert has done a fine job as the closer in Newman’s absence. The Tigers have won five of seven games since Newman has been sidelined. The bullpen has not been responsible for either of the two defeats.
Thanks to the Sunday victory against Florida, LSU finds itself behind only four teams in the overall SEC standings. The Tigers are 4-2 – one game behind Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and South Carolina. Those four teams are all on LSU’s remaining schedule.