BATON ROUGE, La. — The band Asia may have a comeback hit before Ole Miss wins another series over LSU baseball at Alex Box Stadium.
The Rebels came up short for the 19th consecutive time in Baton Rouge as the Tigers took the rubber game of the series 3-2 on Saturday afternoon. Ole Miss hasn’t won a series at LSU since 1982 despite 10 of those matchups reaching a decisive third game.
Freshman pitcher Eric Walker was once again locked in for the Tigers. Though a Tate Blackman solo home run in the third ended his scoreless streak at 18.2 innings, Walker was close to flawless for the third straight start before finally running out of gas in the seventh inning. He allowed 6 hits and 2 runs in 6.2 innings with 5 strikeouts and no walks.
Walker (5-0) has yet to record a loss in his college career.
Cole Freeman, leather flasher
Freeman was the Rebels’ defensive arch-nemesis Saturday afternoon, with his spectacular leaping grab of Bryan Seamster’s would-be Texas Leaguer providing the 27th out. The tying run likely would have scored from second on a base hit.
“When the ball left the bat, I thought ‘There comes the run right there,'” said closer Hunter Newman, who recorded his fifth save. “But he’s got some ups for a little man.”
The 5-foot-8 Freeman wasn’t sure he was going to be able to elevate for the catch, either.
“I was like ‘I don’t know I’ll be able to get this,'” Freeman said. “I thought he had got up in the air a little bit. I just worked back and luckily I was able to get up and it wasn’t too far out of my range.”
Freeman’s defense got also LSU out of a pickle in the sixth inning.
With one out and the tying run at third base, Mississippi’s Will Golsan laced an opposite-field line drive. But Freeman was there to stab the ball out of the air before alertly gunning to Josh Smith to end the inning because baserunner Grae Kessinger broke for home on contact.
“Once I caught it, I saw him freeze out of the corner of my eye, so I knew I had to make a quick snap-throw,” Freeman said. “But then I saw him take another step forward, but by that time I couldn’t stop my throw.”
Freeman made another highlight-reel play to record the first out in the third inning, snagging a Seamster grounder behind second base and throwing to first for the out as he fell to his backside.
A successful conversion
Walker wasn’t the only freshman pitcher to come through for the Tigers.
Zack Hess, recently converted from midweek starter, passed his first truly pressure-packed SEC situation with flying colors. Hess relieved Walker with runners on first and second in the seventh and rung up Seamster for the third out.
“That’s kind of the job description,” Hess said. “You’re never going to come into a situation where things are easy.”
With Hunter Newman ready in the bullpen, Paul Mainieri trusted Hess to work his way out of a jam in the eighth. After a pair of Ole Miss two-out singles, Hess got Rebels cleanup hitter Ryan Olenek to bounce out to Freeman to end the inning.
“I’m really glad that he left me in,” Hess said. “Being a bullpen guy, you try to be in there as long as you can.”
Greg Deichmann, baseball basher
— LSUBaseballData (@LSUBaseballData) April 15, 2017
If you are wondering about the science of Deichmann’s 12th home run, LSU Baseball Data has you covered. The ball came off his bat at 105.7 miles per hour, traveling out of the park in 4.9 seconds. The final resting place was in the right field bleachers, 428 feet from home plate.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
Former LSU assistant coach Will Davis brings the Lamar Cardinals to Alex Box Stadium for a Tuesday night non-conference game. Davis is in his second year at Lamar after spending eight years as Paul Mainieri’s right-hand man. The 6:30 p.m. game will be streamed online on SEC Network-Plus.