COLUMBIA, Mo. — As Christian Ibarra rounded the bases for the second time, his second home run of the game a no-doubter sailing way beyond the left field bullpen, the sparse crowd of LSU fans that stuck out the five-hour rain delay started to chant, the run total for the fifth inning increasing to five and the score to 8-0.
Even a rain delay from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. couldn’t stop LSU on Saturday night. It couldn’t stop Ibarra, the LSU bats, or starting pitcher Ryan Eades, as LSU cruised past Missouri 8-0.
“Ibarra is really an outstanding player, a very unheralded and underrated player for us,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “If we didn’t have Ibarra, we’d be in trouble.”
Ibarra, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, put LSU on the scoreboard early on in the second inning with a home run off Missouri pitcher Brett Graves that just made it over the left field fence, his second home run of the season.
But the home runs didn’t stop there.
They continued in the fourth inning, as Alex Bregman hit a towering shot barely fair, soaring right above the left field foul poll. Bregman finished 2-for-5, the home run not only pushing his hitting streak to 15 games, but also a gift for the freshman’s 19th birthday.
Two batters later, Mason Katz added to his team-leading home run total, hitting his 12th well beyond the center field wall, giving LSU a 3-0 lead.
The next inning didn’t get any better for the Missouri pitchers, as right-hander Griffin Goodrich came in relief for Graves. He quickly recorded two outs in the fifth, but then gave up an opposite field single to LSU right fielder Mark Laird. Bregman was next, hitting a sharp single off the glove of Missouri third baseman Shane Segovia. Raph Rhymes then lined yet another single toward Segovia, scoring Laird, which then led to an opposite-field, bases-clearing triple lined off the bat of Katz, pushing the lead to 6-0.
The two-out rally was far from over, as Ibarra was next, promptly clearing the bases with his second home run of the game.
“I’ve been kind of in a slump lately, and I was just looking for fastballs each at-bat,” Ibarra said. “And that’s what I got.”
The five runs in the fifth would be more than enough insurance to win the game for No. 2-ranked LSU (25-2, 7-1 SEC).
“What a great two-out rally,” Mainieri said. “That was really the story of the game. We had some really good at-bats, and then Eades took care of the rest. And we turned a few double plays.”
Despite surrendering nine hits, Eades picked up his team-leading sixth win of the season, grinding through 8.0 innings, striking out five and walking three in the delayed start.
“You’re going to give up hits when you throw strikes,” Mainieri said. “We pride ourselves in not walking batters. If you’re going to throw the ball over the plate, you run the risk of giving up some hits.
“When he gets in a jam, though, he really raises his game to another level. We get the double plays, or he gets a big out. That was vintage Eades tonight.”
LSU turned three double plays: one in the third, the fourth and the sixth.
Nick Rumbelow relieved Eades to close out the game, pitching a perfect ninth.
Combined with Friday night’s 2-0 win, Saturday marked the first time since 2005 that LSU has had back-to-back shutouts in SEC games.
“It’s very difficult to pitch a shutout against anybody, and I just think that a lot of that credit goes to (Aaron) Nola (who pitched 7.2 innings in the win Friday) and Eades,” Mainieri said.
LSU will go for the sweep at 1 p.m. Sunday, when it sends sophomore left-hander Cody Glenn (4-1, 2.27 ERA) to the mound against Missouri freshman right-hander Alec Rash (2-1, 0.53 ERA).
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