Air Force scores three in ninth inning to beat Tigers
BATON ROUGE — The Air Force Academy used two bases-loaded walks and a sacrifice fly to push across three runs in the ninth inning to beat LSU 6-5 Sunday.
The only Falcons hit in the inning was an infield single by Sam Kulasingham. But it came after consecutive one-out walks to load the bases.
Aaron George relieved freshman Ty Floyd, but he walked the next two batters and then gave up a sacrifice fly before getting out of the inning.
LSU pitching had walked only two batters in the young season’s previous 17 innings before walking four in the late meltdown.
“It’s a tough loss for us, there’s a lot of areas we’ve got to improve in and we’re going to address them,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “This is how young kids have to cut their teeth. You have to bring them in. I thought Ty Floyd aired it out and the next thing you know he’s in a jam.”
Mainieri said he didn’t want to use closer Devin Fontenot on consecutive days this early in the season.
The Tigers will be back in action today at 5 p.m. against Louisiana Tech — a game originally scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
Sunday LSU took a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth. The Tigers also benefitted from a pair of walks, followed by a wild pitch, before Zach Arnold drove both in with a two-run single.
But Air Force’s ninth-inning rally wasn’t the only cheap runs the Tigers allowed.
Freshman third baseman Will Hellmers had three errors in the game, including two in the fourth inning that allowed Air Force to tie the score at 2-2 with a pair of unearned runs.
The Falcons took a 3-2 lead in the sixth on an RBI single that was ruled a hit even though Hellmers, who also had an error in Saturday’s season opener, probably should have handled it.
“If anybody is to blame it’s me for throwing a kid into a difficult situation out there with not much experience.”
Hellmers spent most of fall practice as a pitcher — and may yet be back on the mound — but Mainieri had been impressed with him in preseason.
“Not a secret that third base has been a problem for us leading up to the season,” Mainieri said. “Will looked good in practice. Boy, the ball just found him. Tough chances. Nobody feels worse than him.”
LSU’s other two freshmen starters fared much better.
Rightfielder Dylan Crews went 2-for-4, including a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth that pulled the Tigers to within a run.
First baseman Tre’ Morgan went 2-for-3, scoring a run in the first on Drew Bianco’s ground out and driving in another in the third with a double.
But LSU managed only six hits total while striking out 12 times against four Air Force pitchers.
“The concerns I had going into the season kind of reared their head already,” Mainieri said. “Left side of the infield is kind of a struggle. Certainly we need to swing the bats better than we did these first two games.
“We’re going to have to figure some things out. A lot of it, I tip my hat to the Air Force kids. “