The LSU baseball team entered Tuesday night with a perfect record in midweek games, but the past two wins have come by a single run.
It looked like more of the same until the Tigers blew open a one-run game against Tulane with six runs — all unearned, all with two outs — in the sixth inning, allowing fourth-ranked LSU to score a comfortable 9-5 victory before 5,464 fans at Alex Box Stadium.
“We knew we had to get a good inning in sometime pretty soon,” LSU outfielder Raph Rhymes said. “Tulane was fighting, so we had to buckle down. A little sense of urgency kicked in, and we put some good swings on the ball and had some good at-bats.”
LSU (36-10) completed a regular-season sweep of Tulane (29-16) by beating its rival to the south for the eight time in the past 10 meetings. The Tigers can finish the season 14-0 in midweek games with a victory over Nicholls Sate on May 15 in the nonconference finale.
Tulane coach Rick Jones missed this one after his sister died over the weekend at her home in North Carolina.
“We came out there, and our at-bats were good the whole way through,” LSU shortstop Austin Nola said. “I think it paid off for us toward the end of the game.”
LSU put behind a disappointing 5-3 loss to Georgia in Sunday’s series finale, a heart-stopping setback that cost the Tigers their third straight sweep of a Southeastern Conference home series.
Then there’s that little matter of Rhymes and his ongoing run at any hitter’s dream season.
Rhymes struck out with the bases loaded to end Sunday’s loss, but he followed a second-inning groundout Tuesday with singles in the fourth and sixth and scored twice. He heads to Ole Miss this weekend batting .503 with only 10 games to play in the regular season.
But the Tigers got production Tuesday throughout the lineup with eight players registering hits.
Nola went 2-for-5 with his third homer of the season — all three in the space of three weeks. Arby Fields was 1-for-5 with a triple and two RBIs. Jacoby Jones went 2-for-2.
Nola’s homer came right after Jones tagged at second on a Fields flyout to center. Tulane appealed — and won, bringing LSU coach Paul Mainieri out of the dugout to argue the call.
LSU scored all nine of its runs with two outs, including the six in the sixth.
“So many guys had quality at-bats. So many guys had big at-bats, and that was a great thing to see,” Mainieri said. “Because I hope we don’t get in the habit of counting on (Mason) Katz and Rhymes to do everything. If you’re going to be a good team, you need to use your whole lineup.”
The Tigers finished with 11 hits, but Tulane kept coming after them after LSU took a pair of early leads.
Bowen Woodson made it 1-1 when he lined a two-out triple to score Andrew Garner from first, then Nick Schneeberger made it 2-2 when he drove in Garrett Cannizaro with a dingle to right.
Some costly defensive miscues by Tulane in the sixth, combined with LSU’s continued reliance on two-out hits, is what ultimately proved to be the difference.
It looked like the Green Wave was about to get out of the inning when Tyler Hanover hit a sharp grounder to short that Brennan Middleton couldn’t handle. The two-out error put runners at second and third, scoring Jordy Snikeris — who had reached on an error himelf with nobody out — and Rhymes. That set the stage for Fields to come through with a two-run triple for an 8-2 lead.
Nola then drove home Fields with a single to right, making it a 9-2 game.
“Other than the sixth inning, I felt like we played well,” said Middleton, a former Parkview Baptist standout. “We battled all game other than that one inning.”
Alex Byo, also a Parkview graduate, took his second loss against LSU this season after throwing 7.2 innings against the Tigers in a 4-0 loss at Tulane.
Brent Bonvillain, who pitched the fifth in relief of starter Joe Broussard, won for the fourth time in as many decisions despite giving up Schneeberger’s single to score Cannizaro, who had wheeled into third after Bonvillain threw past first in an attempt to pick him off.
Tulane scored its final three runs on three straight RBI singles by Brandon Boudreaux, Cannizaro and Schneeberger in the eighth.
Schneeberger and Woodson both went 3-for-5 to lead Tulane’s 12-hit attack.
Teach For America staff member Kayce Didier threw out the ceremonial first pitch Tuesday as part of Teach For America Week throughout the nation. LSU infielder Beau Didier, Kayce’s brother, caught the pitch. Kayce has worked on the Teach For America staff for several years and will begin her teaching career as a first-year Teach For America corps member next fall. ... LSU observed a moment of silence before the game for Renee May, the sister of Jones who died in North Carolina over the weekend. ... Fields batted leadoff Tuesday for the fourth time with Nola sliding up to the second spot for the first time and Snikeris batting fifth for the first time. ... LSU moved up two spots to No. 7 in this week’s RPI ratings. Tulane made a 20-spot jump to No. 59 after taking two of three from East Carolina in Conference USA action.
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