OMAHA, Neb. — The LSU baseball team is in the same place it was one week ago: one loss away from elimination.
The Tigers dropped Game 1 in the best-of-3 College World Series finals against Florida Monday night, losing to the Gators 4-3. With the loss, the Tigers need to win two games in two days to win the national championship.
Senior Russell Reynolds made a spot start for LSU and was pretty effective in the first three innings, facing the minimum amount of batters allowing 2 hits with 2 strikeouts.
But for as good as Reynolds was in the first three innings, he fell apart in the fourth. After a leadoff groundout, Reynolds walked three straight batters to load the bases. Mainieri yanked Reynolds in favor of left-handed reliever Nick Bush, who allowed 3 runs to score on a sacrifice fly and a ground rule double. All 3 runs were charged to Reynolds.
“I kind of lost control of the zone a little bit with fastball command,” Reynolds said. “And that’s the key to pitching, fastball command. When I lost it, that’s when it went downhill for me. But I thought our guys had my back and came through.
Bush emulated Reynolds, also throwing 3.1 innings with 2 strikeouts, but only allowing 1 run. Bush retired seven batters in a row at one point, setting the Gators down 1-2-3 in both the fifth and sixth innings. The freshman left-hander left with two outs in the seventh inning after allowing his run to score on a double, a sacrifice and a single.
He was replaced by senior Hunter Newman, who struck out leadoff hitter Deacon Liput to end the inning. Newman also threw scoreless frames in the eighth and ninth.
“I think they did a great job,” left fielder Antoine Duplantis said about the LSU bullpen. “They kept us in the game. I think the most lead went for them was 3-0. So we were within three the whole game. Got it all the way back to one run and kept us in the game the whole time and we had a chance to win. But we just couldn’t get those big hits.”
What about the LSU offense?
LSU’s offense built its first rally in the fourth inning when Duplantis and Greg Deichmann led off with back-to-back singles. But Florida starter Brady Singer shut down the middle of the Tigers’ lineup, stranding Duplantis and Deichmann by striking out Zach Watson, Josh Smith and Beau Jordan in secession.
Duplantis hit his second home run of 2017 in the sixth inning to put LSU on the board. The left fielder rode a 2-1 offering from Singer over the bullpen into right field, trimming the Gators lead to 3-1. The last time Duplantis hit a home run was in the Tigers’ second SEC game of the season versus Georgia back on March 18.
“I hit a fastball out,” said Duplantis, who went 2-for-4 Monday. “But I was seeing him pretty well today. I was just trying to lay off the breaking ball as much as I could, and I did a good job of that, and luckily I got ahead in the count that at-bat and I didn’t miss my pitch.”
LSU continued the rally with two outs after Duplantis’ home run. Watson was hit by a pitch and Smith drew a walk, bringing up Jordan. Jordan singled through the left side of the infield, scoring Watson from second and cutting the deficit to 3-2.
After the Gators pushed a run across off of Bush to make the score 4-2 in the seventh, LSU trimmed the deficit back to one in the eighth. Deichmann doubled off Singer to lead off the inning and chase him from the game. After a Watson flyout, Smith drove in Deichmann with a liner into center field, but was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single into a double.
“I just went back and watched it,” Smith said after the game. “I was safe.”
LSU went 3-up, 3-down in the ninth to lose by one run.
What’s next for the LSU baseball team?
The Tigers will try to stave off elimination Tuesday night at 7 p.m. CT. The Tigers will send senior Jared Poché to the mound, who has won both games he’s pitched in the 2017 CWS.
“It’s comforting to know that we still have Jared Poché going fully rested,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “If we’re fortunate enough to win tomorrow night, we’ve got Alex Lange waiting. We don’t think the series is over by a long stretch. We’re excited about playing tomorrow and hopefully we can have a little bit more luck on our side tomorrow.”
Tuesday’s game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and available to stream through WatchESPN and the Watch ESPN App.