It took 13 innings, but No. 7 LSU finally got the run it needed when Alex Bregman sent the fans home with a walk-off hit to give the Tigers a 2-1 victory against Northwestern State on Wednesday.
LSU (19-2) scored a run in the first inning and waited until the 13th to cross the plate again, as Bregman won it after a marathon midweek contest. JaCoby Jones set the table with a leadoff single, ending a 0-for-5 night at the plate. A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Mark Laird advanced Jones into scoring position, and Bregman ended it with a drive to right field.
“I was just trying to use the right side of the field because the wind was blowing in,” said Bregman, who went 3-for-6 on Wednesday. “I knew I had to try and stay on top of the baseball to hit something on a line or on the ground. I was fortunate to get a fastball that I could put a good swing on. It’s all because JaCoby got on base.”
The LSU offense was mostly befuddled all night by NSU (9-14) pitching as the Tigers only mustered eight hits in 13 innings, going on a 0-for-12 streak before Jones’ hit. NSU starter Cody Butler went nine innings, allowing only one run on six hits.
“They were battle tested, and they weren’t intimidated at all coming here to play us,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “It showed by the way they played. First of all, you tip your hat to [Butler] and all the guys out of the bullpen did a great job.”
LSU did have its chances to win it, mounting threats in the late innings. The Tigers put a runner on second with one out in the ninth after a Mason Katz walk, but consecutive strikeouts by Christian Ibarra and Alex Edward left the runners stranded.
LSU had two on again in the 12th, when Ty Ross came up with one out. He sailed one to deep right-center, but NSU RF Jake Clouatre ranged into the gap and made the out, limiting Ibarra, who was on second, to only advance to third. The next batter, Chris Sciambra, couldn’t check his swing and struck out to end that threat as well.
“Everyone’s going to wonder about our hitting,” Mainieri said. “Early in the game, we had some terrific at-bats, and they made some great plays. Those kept us from having sustained rallies.”
It was a promising night for reliever Will LaMarche, who surrendered four runs on Sunday against Mississippi State. He entered with a runner on in the 11th, before Ross caught Nick Purdy stealing. LaMarche then struck out Matt Burns looking to end the frame.
He earned the win with 2 2/3 scoreless innings of work with four strikeouts, and only allowed one baserunner on a walk, who Ross also caught stealing.
“We’ve been waiting for him to turn the corner, and maybe this was his coming-out party,” Mainieri said. “He has a world of ability, but he’s just been lacking that little something extra, and this game, he showed that.”
The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning as Katz drove in Bregman for the game’s first run. The LSU pitchers silenced the Demons, as freshman Russell Reynolds, making his second collegiate starter, went five scoreless innings with only three hits allowed.
“I thought it was really phenomenal,” Mainieri said of Reynolds’ night. “I was tempted to let him keep going, but he hadn’t thrown more than two innings in an outing. I didn’t want to overextend him, but that will obviously earn him another start. He’ll keep working toward achieving a good status on our team.”
Brent Bonvillain and Kevin Berry each followed with scoreless innings before Joey Bourgeois entered in the eighth. Bourgeois allowed a leadoff single before a sacrifice bunt and groundout advanced the runner to third.
Todd Wallace drove in the game-tying run with a single to right. But LSU was able to answer five innings later as Bregman gave LSU the victory in its longest game of the season.
“I was very relieved, just because we won the game,” Bregman said. “No one in our dugout cared how we won or who got the final hit. We’re just happy we came away with a victory. They played a great game, but we were ready to compete. We weren’t expecting a 13-inning game, but sometimes that’s what it takes.”