Hitting into the double play was kind of our bugaboo. ... It took us out of (four innings).” PAUL MAINIERI, LSU coach
OXFORD, Miss. — LSU scored in just one inning, Ole Miss scored in four and that was the difference as the Rebels defeated the Tigers 7-4 Saturday afternoon at Swayze Field.
A four-run fourth inning gave LSU a 4-1 lead, but Tigers starter Ryan Eades immediately let Ole Miss erase it and the bullpen allowed the Rebels to pull away and even the series at one victory apiece.
The Tigers (37-11, 15-8 in Southeastern Conference play) and the Rebels (31-17, 11-12) will play the deciding game of the series at 1:30 p.m. Sunday.
LSU went out in order in the first two innings, then had at least one baserunner in six of the last seven innings, but hitting into four double plays stifled opportunities.
“Hitting into the double play was kind of our bugaboo,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said. “It obviously hurt us. It took us out of (four innings).”
The score was tied at 4-4 when Austin Nola led off the Tigers fifth with a single, finishing Ole Miss starter Mike Mayers. Tanner Bailey (2-1) relieved and Mason Katz hit the ball sharply, but right at third baseman Andrew Mistone, who started a 5-4-3 double play.
The most damaging double play came in the sixth with the score still tied. Tyler Moore led off with a single and one out later Ty Ross singled him to second. With the count at 3-2, Mainieri started the runners and Tyler Hanover lined out to right. Moore kept running to third and was doubled off to end the threat.
“I was a little too concerned with scoring,” Moore said. “That was my fault. I was a little too aggressive right there.”
Ironically, Mainieri had started the runners specifically to reduce the chances of hitting into a double play.
“That kind of took the wind out of our sails,” he said.
Ole Miss rode the momentum into the bottom half and took the lead against Kurt McCune (2-4), who had relieved Eades to start the fifth.
With one out Will Jamison doubled as Arby Fields couldn’t make a sliding catch in right-center. Tanner Mathis singled him home for a 5-4 lead.
The Rebels increased the lead in their next at-bat. Will Allen led off the seventh with a walk against Brent Bonvillain, bringing in Kevin Berry in relief. Pinch hitter Preston Overbey sacrificed Allen to second and Auston Bousfield hit a long homer off the foul pole in left for a 7-4 lead.
“A lot of the headlines will go to the offense with 12 hits and seven runs,” Ole Miss coach Mike Bianco said. “But, it was big for our pitchers to put up zeroes after giving four runs in the fourth. (Bailey) came in and got a double play and that kept the momentum on our side. We were able to come back, score three and tie it up. The bullpen was great.”
The Tigers had two more at-bats against Rebels closer Brett Huber. Raph Rhymes singled with one out in the eighth, extending his hitting streak to 14 games and leaving his NCAA-leading batting average at. 497. He was quickly erased though when Moore followed with a double-play grounder.
Ross walked with one out in the ninth, but Hanover followed with a grounder to shortstop Austin Anderson, who stepped on second and threw to first for another double play, completing Huber’s eighth save.
LSU missed an opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the SEC and remained tied with South Carolina, which saw its 12-game conference winning streak ended in a 7-6 loss to Arkansas. The Tigers’ lead the Western Division by three games over Arkansas and Mississippi State.
Eades gave up eight hits and four runs in four innings, McCune have up three hits and a run in 1.2, Bonvillain gave up a walk and a run in one-third, and Berry gave up a hit and a run in one-third before Joe Broussard threw a scoreless 1.2 to finish.
“Obviously we didn’t pitch well enough today,” Mainieri said.
Eades was scored on in the first inning for the third consecutive start. After starting with two-run innings against Georgia a week ago and Kentucky the week before that, he gave up just one run to the Rebels without being hit hard.
Mathis, who’s from Lake Charles, led off with an infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch as an Eades fastball whistled past Mistone as he squared around to bunt. Mistone then bunted Mathis to third and Yarbrough’s groundout brought home Mathis for a 1-0 lead.
All of LSU’s scoring came against Mayers in the fourth. With one out Katz walked and Rhymes was hit by a pitch, reaching base for the 28th consecutive game. Moore singled home Katz and Rhymes scored the go-ahead run on Grant Dozar’s squeeze bunt. Dozar reached first as Rhymes slid around an attempted tag by Allen.
Ross’ groundout advanced the runners and Hanover’s walk loaded the bases before JaCoby Jones singled home two for a 4-1 Tigers lead. LSU left two runners on as Fields struck out for the second time in the game and sixth time in the series.
“I thought we were getting ready to take control of the game,” Mainieri said, “but unfortunately Ryan couldn’t shut the door on them in the bottom of the fourth inning. He’s just been struggling with getting the ball down in the zone and putting guys away.”
The rally started as Zach Kirksey, who’s from Monroe and played at LSU-Eunice, hit his 12th homer of the season to cut the lead to 4-2 with one out.
“He gave up the home run and that’s OK because it’s still 4-2,” Mainieri said, “but then he walks the next hitter and makes some more pitches and next thing you know they’ve got the game tied up.”
Auston Bousfield walked and Anderson singled him to second before Eades got an out on Will Jamison’s flyout. Mathis singled home one run and Mistone singled home the tying run before Eades struck out Yarbrough.
“In the fourth inning I fell behind a little bit and they made me throw it over the plate and hit it where we weren’t,” Eades said. “I’ve got to make better pitches at the right time.
“I’ve got do a better job after we take the lead and shut them down and throw up a zero. I wasn’t able to do it.”