Last Modified: Sunday, April 28, 2013 8:22 PM
BATON ROUGE — LSU is officially on “lull alert” — a wake-up call, perhaps, for what had been a don’t-pinch-me season.
Until this weekend.
The Tigers looked uncharacteristically lethargic at the plate and very average in the field in falling to South Carolina 4-0 in Sunday’s rubber game of a key SEC series.
LSU lost its first series of the year with its first back-to-back losses of the season, courtesy of the Tigers’ first shutout loss in over a calendar year.
“We played bad all weekend,” LSU first baseman Mason Katz said. “We’re a better team than that.”
LSU (39-6, 16-5 SEC) is still leading the SEC West division by 2 1/2 games over Arkansas, but fell three games behind Vanderbilt in the overall standings after the Commodores swept Mississippi State this weekend.
“Pure and simple, they just out-played us,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Got to give them credit. They’re an excellent team — they’ve been to the College World Series (finals) three straight years, won it twice.
“They deserved to beat us.”
South Carolina improved to 33-12, 13-8 in SEC play.
“I feel very strongly that they outplayed us,” Mainieri said. “Yesterday we had some chances (14 hits but only a pair of runs in a 4-2 loss). Today we dug ourselves a hole.”
Kurt McCune (3-1) struggled in his first SEC start of the year, but didn’t get much help from his defense in the Gamecocks’ 2-run first inning.
He gave up a triple, an RBI double and an RBI single, all on balls that while clearly not errors, were the kind of plays LSU has been making most of the season.
We put him in a tough situation right away and he never got into a groove,” Mainieri said. “The plays in the first inning didn’t help him, certainly.”
Rightfielder Jared Foster misjudged his diving attempt on Chase Vergason’s one-out triple, LB Dantzler’s double went off Katz’s glove and Max Schrock’s single was just off the glove of second baseman JaCoby Jones.
McCune gave up another run in the second, but the opening two-spot was all the Gamecocks needed as the Tigers managed only six hits, never got a runner to third base and had only two reach second.
“We hit a half-dozen or so that we crushed and they sort of hung up there,” Mainieri said. “Their outfielders made some great plays. It wasn’t meant to be.”
LSU also hit a lot of pop-ups against Gamecock starter Jack Wynkoop, who only struck out only one Tiger but got through seven innings on just 72 pitches.
“We had some pretty feeble swings,” Katz said. “We had bad swings even when we were ahead in the count.”
LSU’s only bright spot was the bullpen, including four innings of scoreless, one-hit relief from Brent Bonvillain.
LSU’s best chance to make a game of it came in the eighth when Foster followed Mark Laird’s single with a walk to bring Alex Bregman to the plate as the tying run facing USC closer Tyler Webb.
But the Tigers’ best hitter popped up to center field to end the inning and the Gamecocks tacked on a fourth run, unearned, in the top of the ninth following a Katz error.
“He beat Bregman this time,” Mainieri said. “Maybe they next time they face, maybe Bregman beats him.
“You can analyze it and analyze it, but it comes down to, on a given day, who makes the pitches, who makes the plays, who gets the big hits. They did it better than we did.”