COLLEGE STATION, Texas — LSU seems to have a reliable formula for breaking a tie and winning a game in extra innings.
The Tigers’ scheduled seven-inning series finale against Texas A&M went to an extra inning Saturday afternoon at Blue Bell Park. Ty Ross began the inning with a double, Jared Foster pinch-ran and was bunted to third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Sean McMullen to provide a 2-1 victory.
The exact same scenario provided the tie-breaking run in the 10th inning of LSU’s 5-3 victory at Arkansas on April 14.
“This was like déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said. “We’ll take those kinds of wins anytime.”
In both instances, Ross’ hit wasn’t a clear-cut double, but the catcher hustled his way into scoring position, then gave way to the speedier Foster.
“Once I hit it, I thought, “I’ve got to get two,’ ” Ross said. “I didn’t round the base very well, but I got there all right.”
The Tigers — who also beat the Aggies 2-1 Saturday morning in the completion of a game suspended because of severe weather Friday night — won all five of their Southeastern Conference road series. They swept Missouri and won two of three against Mississippi State, Arkansas and Alabama, as well as A&M.
The victory also gave the Tigers 45 regular-season wins, tying the record set by the 1997 team for most victories in a 56-game regular season. They appear a shoo-in to break the record with four games left — all at home, against UNO on Tuesday and against Ole Miss on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
“It’s going to be nice to go home,” Mainieri said. “I would hope that winning the SEC West, with the job we’ve done in our nonconference games (24-1), will give us a really good shot at being a national seed.
“I hope the only times we’re going to be on the road the rest of the year will be in Hoover (Ala., for the SEC Tournament) and in Omaha (Neb., for the College World Series). Hopefully we’ll host a regional and a super regional.”
Mainieri was looking for an opportunity to lessen the number of pitches Aaron Nola threw in the wake of four consecutive complete games in which the sophomore averaged 110 pitches.
That opportunity came after the sixth inning Friday night, as Nola allowed two runs and saw his pitch count at 90. Then came a two-hour-plus rain delay that made it impractical for Nola to continue, though Mainieri said he was taking him out regardless.
“Aaron was great,” Mainieri said. “It was the perfect time to get him a blow. He was pretty exhausted. He earned that win. There’s no doubt about it.”
LSU has won all 13 of Nola’s starts this season, and he’s gotten the decision in 10 of them.
Mark Laird was back in the No. 2 spot in the batting order for the series finale after a brief absence. Mainieri dropped Laird to the No. 8 spot and put Raph Rhymes second in the opener, then moved Rhymes back to his No. 5 spot and started Jared Foster in Laird’s place against A&M left-hander Matt Kemp in the second game.
When the second game resumed and the Aggies switched to a right-hander, Laird replaced Foster and got a bunt single. In the next game, Laird had three singles in four at-bats for his second multi-hit game in the last 28.
LSU hitters have been up and down in the last week, to say the least. They tied their season high with 19 hits in an 18-6 win against Florida last Sunday, then had just five hits in losing the opener to A&M. They followed that with 17 hits before struggling again in the series finale, though three hits in the final inning gave them eight hits in that game.
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