Inability to finish costs LSU

Published 11:00 am Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Banning cellphones at practice and pregame wasn’t the answer for LSU’s frustrated baseball team.

That was head coach Jay Johnson’s team edict after the Tigers’ embarrassing loss to Southern University a week ago.

And it looked as if he might be on to something when LSU put together one of its better performances of the season in beating No. 6 Vanderbilt 10-6 in the Southeastern Conference series opener on Thursday.

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But it didn’t take.

The Tigers were on the verge of clinching their first SEC series of the season the following day before the Commodores got a two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth off normally reliable Nate Ackenhausen, and added an insurance run in the ninth to rally for an 8-6 victory.

The series finale was a disaster for LSU as Vanderbilt scored in each inning, of which there were eight, as for the third time in losing all four of their SEC series the Tigers were run-ruled in the final game, a 13-3 loss on Saturday. Vanderbilt scored in 14 of the last 15 innings.

It dropped LSU (21-12, 3-9 SEC) out of the polls and into a fifth-place tie with Ole Miss in the West Division.

LSU hosts McNeese State tonight before hitting the road for three conference games this weekend against No. 4 ranked Tennessee (26-6, 7-5).

“We’ve got to be able to finish the games that we can, and we’ve certainly tried to do that,” LSU head coach Jay Johnson said. “We’ll try a different way. We need to improve our overall execution.”

The Tigers led 9-0 in the first game behind ace Luke Holman’s 10 strikeouts in 52/3 innings. But the Commodores cut the lead to 9-6 and forced LSU to use its best reliever, Griffin Herring, to finish the game.

“We should have somebody else that we can go to other than Herring,” Johnson said. “And right now, we don’t. There’s a lot of reasons for that. I’m really surprised about that.”

The Tigers used six pitchers in the final game, all of whom gave up at least one run.

After the first-game outburst, the Tigers’ bats weren’t a lot of help either.

In the final two games their hitters struck out 26 times. They were 7-for-34 (.206) with runners on base, 4-for-20 (.200) with runners in scoring position.

“We’re playing a difficult schedule, and it doesn’t give you a lot of margin for error in winning and losing,” Johnson said. We have things to play for in front of us, though it feels disappointing.

“It’s about getting over that hump — not just hoping that we’re going to win, but somebody stepping up and executing when we need it.”