BATON ROUGE, La. — Saturday night couldn’t have gone much worse for the LSU baseball bullpen.
Despite a solid outing from starting pitcher Caleb Gilbert, the LSU bullpen couldn’t keep the game close, as LSU lost to Missouri 12-6 on Saturday. With the loss, No. 16 LSU dropped to 13-7, 1-1 SEC, while No. 24 Missouri improved to 15-4.
“Obviously, the eighth inning turned into a disaster,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said of the frame where his bullpen allowed 8 runs. “After Fontenot gave us 2 great innings out of the bullpen, we tried to make some moves there in the hopes that we could stop it and it just didn’t work out that way. It just got out of control. It’s hard to go through nights like this.”
Gilbert flirted with disaster all game, putting at least one runner on base in every inning and having to deal with runners in scoring position in his last four innings pitched. But the junior dealt with the threats well, stranding six runners on base in the first four innings, four of which in scoring position.
In the fifth inning, Gilbert looked poised to continue the trend. He worked Misssouri cleanup hitter Brett Bond to a full count with 2 outs and a runner on second, but Bond won on the eighth pitch of the at-bat, teeing off for his second home run of 2018 to give Missouri a 2-1 lead.
Devin Fontenot pitched the sixth and seventh innings in relief of Gilbert, setting down all six of the batters he faced. But after allowing a leadoff double in the eighth inning, Fontenot exited and LSU’s bullpen became a revolving door of walks. Matthew Beck, Taylor Petersen, Todd Peterson, Cam Sanders and Trent Vietmeier all pitched in the frame as LSU allowed 8 runs on 6 walks, 3 hits, an error and a hit-by-pitch.
“You were just hoping somebody would throw the ball over the plate,” Mainieri said. “I don’t remember how many walks. I thought we were going to get out of it. I don’t know that crazy play they tried where the guy broke from third and the guy fake bunted and popped up. I said ‘Wow, thank you.’ All we had to go was get one out and we were going to get out of the inning. Then Taylor hit the next guy and it got kind of out of hand after that.”
As for the hitting…
LSU struggled to find a rhythm against Missouri starter Michael Plassmeyer. Coming into Saturday, LSU ranked No. 1 in the SEC at avoiding strikeouts, but Plassmeyer had his K pitch going from the start, as he fanned 5 Tigers in the first two innings and 8 overall. Of the 5 hits LSU mustered off Plassmeyer, only 3 left the infield.
LSU’s best offensive opportunity came in the fourth inning. Behind a leadoff single from right fielder Antoine Duplantis and a walk one at-bat later from first baseman Austin Bain, LSU had runners on first and second with no one out. The Tigers squeezed 1 run out of the situation thanks to a sacrifice bunt from catcher Hunter Feduccia to move the runners and a sacrifice fly from left fielder Beau Jordan to score Duplantis. But trading two outs for a run ended LSU’s threat, as designated hitter Bryce Jordan followed his twin with a groundout to shortstop to end the inning.
Pinch hitter Jake Slaughter homered off Plassmeyer to lead off the eighth inning and end the left-hander’s day. Centerfielder Zach Watson added a home run two batters later to give LSU’s its third run of the evening. For both Slaughter and Watson, the home runs were their second of 2018.
Choosing against letting the game end in a blowout, LSU added three more runs in the bottom of the ninth inning off a double from Bryce Jordan, an RBI groundout from Daniel Cabrera and a double by Watson.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
LSU baseball returns to The Box on Sunday for the third game of this three-game series against Missouri. Action is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. CT and will be available to watch online through WatchESPN.