COLUMBIA, Mo. — Chris Cotton sprinted out of the bullpen, a gusting wind pushing him back as he headed to the mound as LSU’s fifth pitcher of the day. With a runner on first base and two outs in the eighth inning, he would be counted on to keep a one-run lead that had lasted five innings exactly where it was.
Four outs later, the players in LSU’s dugout sprinted toward Cotton, who had notched his eighth save to complete a three-game sweep of Missouri with a 6-5 win Sunday.
Brent Bonvillain (2-0) got the win after pitching 4.1 scoreless innings of relief. He struck out three, walked two and gave up no hits.
“The key to the game of course was Brent Bonvillain,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said.
Cody Glenn started the game for LSU and struggled. In the first inning, Mason Katz gave Glenn a 1-0 lead with a line drive to right that scored Alex Bregman. But Glenn gave up the lead in the bottom half after a single and a wild pitch led to an opposite-field single by Missouri’s Dylan Kelly that tied the score at 1.
The second inning didn’t get any better. After getting two quick outs, Glenn loaded the bases with a walk, a single and hit-by-pitch of Missouri’s Case Munson. Glenn plunked the next two batters, too, handing Missouri two runs and ending his short stay on the mound.
Right-hander Kevin Berry entered in relief but gave up a single to Jake Ivory that pushed the margin to 5-1. With an early four-run lead, Missouri (9-15, 2-7) was poised to defeat second-ranked LSU (26-2, 8-1) — until the top of the third inning.
Bregman led off the inning with a single, and Raph Rhymes followed with a walk that set up Katz to do what he has done best this season: hit home runs.
“I knew I hit it good, and I thought it had a chance with the wind blowing out to right field,” Katz said of his 13th home run, which tied his career-best total from last season. “I hit it high enough up in the air to let the wind really help out.”
The opposite-field shot barely made it over the right-field wall, cutting Missouri’s lead to 5-4. With no outs, Missouri coach Tim Jamieson subbed out starter Alec Rash for Keaton Steele.
Steele walked his first batter, Christian Ibarra, and then JaCoby Jones hit a ground ball through the legs of third baseman Shane Segovia for an error. After an Andrew Stevenson strikeout, Ty Ross popped an easy fly ball to right field, but it was dropped for an error by Missouri’s Dane Opel to load the bases for LSU’s Sean McMullen.
He lined a single up the middle, scoring Ibarra and Jones, to give LSU the lead and end the day’s scoring. LSU would only get two more hits, but that didn’t matter. The bullpen, capped by Cotton, did its job to give LSU a sweep in its first visit to Columbia.
“Any time you get a three-game sweep on the road in this league, you better count your blessings, but that was a very strange game — very strange,” Mainieri said. “Right now I’m saying to myself, ‘How did we win that game?’ Our starting pitcher doesn’t make it through the second inning. We get one good swing over the last six innings and, other than that, (Missouri’s) pitching just dominated us.”
Bregman’s two hits pushed his hitting streak to 16 games, and Joey Bourgeois got two outs in the eighth to set up Cotton.
“This whole weekend, our starters did great jobs. We only had to use one reliever each game (Friday and Saturday),” Cotton said. “Sometimes your starter is not going to go all seven or eight (innings) like we had been. Sure enough (Sunday), our bullpen pieced it together.”
LSU hosts Alcorn State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.