BATON ROUGE, La. — The LSU baseball team might still be scoring runs.
In its SEC opener Friday night, LSU uncorked a record offensive showing, blowing out Georgia 22-9 at Alex Box Stadium. Left fielder Antoine Duplantis set the LSU baseball record for most hits in a single game with six, going 6-for-6 with a double and seven RBI. Shortstop Kramer Robertson didn’t follow far behind, reaching base seven times on 5-for-5 day with five runs scored.
— LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) March 18, 2017
“I’m just trying to stick with my same approach that I always use when I’m up there,” Duplantis said. “It was the same thing from the start of the season even when I wasn’t getting hits. I haven’t gotten away from that. I try to stay on balls and look the other way and stay inside of them. The balls were just falling for me today.”
Every starter in the LSU lineup scored at least one run and the team batted around in the sixth inning, sending 13 batters to the plate and scoring seven runs on seven hits to break the 20-run mark. Perhaps most impressively, LSU did all of this without a home run and still managed to strand 14 runners.
LSU’s offensive showing more than made up for a subpar start from junior Alex Lange, who lasted just 4.1 innings after getting shelled for eight runs — seven earned — on eight hits with seven strikeouts and four walks. Relief pitcher Austin Bain took over for Lange admirably, throwing 2.2 innings of one-run ball to stabilize LSU’s pitching and allow the offense to blow the game open.
“You’ve got runners on when you come in and someone else’s runs on?” Bain said. “That’s the main thing you should have some pride not to let those runs score for him and have his back.”
Top of the order to ya’
The first four hitters in LSU’s lineup, Robertson, Cole Freeman, Duplantis and Greg Deichmann, couldn’t stay off base Friday night.
The quarter combined to reach base 19 times, scoring 12 runs and driving in 12. Robertson led the way with three doubles, reaching base six times in six at-bats. Duplantis recorded five of his six hits via the single and also walked once, tying Robertson for the team lead of times on base. And Freeman played the selfless role, settling for a 1-for-5 day, but one with two sacrifices and two RBI.
“I guess we just locked in,” Robertson said. “Sometimes you have nights like this. It’s weird, baseball is a weird sport. Sometimes you have nights where you have 22 hits through eight innings and some nights you can’t get anything to fall. We got balls to fall and we came through in the clutch. You can’t really have a much better night than we did tonight. It was fun to be a part of.”
Thanks to their collective performances Friday, all four batters are once again batting above .350 on the year.
On top of LSU baseball’s 22 hits, the team reached on eight walks and five hit-by-pitches. Freshmen Jake Slaughter and Josh Smith absorbed all five of the hit-by-pitches, as Slaughter was plunked three times and Smith twice.
Smith has now been hit by seven pitches this season, seizing the team high away from Freeman. Slaughter has been hit six times, tying him with Freeman for second most on the squad.
What was wrong with Lange tonight? Well, as he says every week, Lange’s performances hinge on his ability to get first pitch strikes and execute his put-out pitches. And while Lange didn’t do a terrible job of getting ahead early in counts — he threw a first-pitch strike to 15 of the 24 batters he faced — he couldn’t quite get batters out.
Three of Lange’s four walks came in full counts, meaning that a strike was the difference between an out and a base runner. Additionally, three of Lange’s four walks came with runners already on base, compounding trouble with more trouble. Three of the four batters Lange walked came around to score, two of which on Georgia right fielder Will Campbell’s three-run home run in the first inning.
Despite this, Lange still recorded a high volume of outs via the strikeout. Five of Lange’s first eight outs and all three of his outs in the third inning came on punchouts, showing his electric stuff was still there, just harder to control than usual.
“They were just on him,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “He started falling behind counts. I’m sure [pitching coach Alan Dunn] will be up all night studying the video to see what went wrong with Alex tonight. But just like I told you after the start in Texas, he’ll bounce back. I’ve never had an athlete that was more mentally tough that can be counted on more than Alex Lange.”
Lange’s poor outing raised his ERA on the season to 5.04.
What’s next for LSU baseball?
The Tigers host Georgia again tomorrow with senior Jared Poché on the mound. Poché has an ERA of 0.00 having thrown 29 consecutive scoreless innings to start the season. The game is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be available to stream via WatchESPN.