OXFORD, Miss. — Alden Cartwright leaped off the mound, raced toward the dugout, pumped his fist twice and roared.
LSU’s shaky pitching situation in Game 3s seemed all right Saturday.
Cartwright, a freshman out of Runnels High, retired his first 10 batters and got out of a testy jam as the Tigers shut down the Rebels for a 2-0 win Saturday afternoon at Swayze Field to claim a critical Southeastern Conference series.
Cartwright’s emotions surged after he stranded two on base in the fourth inning, inducing a double play on his final pitch — the career-high 44th of his outing.
Relievers Hunter Devall, Parker Bugg and Kurt McCune allowed four hits in the next five innings to lead the Tigers (30-10-1, 10-7-1) to just their second win in an SEC series finale this year and the first away from Baton Rouge.
It was a big one.
“For us to come to a place where they’ve only lost two games all year, where they’ve never lost an SEC game in their first two series, to win two is an amazing accomplishment by our team,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “This game was a pivotal win in our season.”
Players poured from the dugout as McCune got pinch hitter Holt Perdzock to ground out, stranding two runners in a pressure-packed ninth inning to stop the Rebels (30-11, 10-8).
The 200-plus purple-clad fans in attendance celebrated an impressive series victory on the road in a matchup of consensus top-15 teams.
“This puts us right in the hunt for winning the SEC West,” Cartwright said as his teammates celebrated with fans down the first-base line. “This is a big win for us.”
Andrew Stevenson scored Conner Hale with an RBI single in the third inning, and Hale had a solo homer in the seventh — both against Ole Miss starter Sam Smith, a Lake Charles native.
Behind Cartwright’s brilliant start, LSU shook off its Game 3 woes. In five previous SEC series finales, the Tigers allowed a whopping 36 runs.
They pieced together many of them with a host of relievers. No. 3 starter Kyle Bouman missed three weeks because of a sprained ankle and struggled upon his return, leaving LSU searching for a No. 3.
Maybe it has found one.
Cartwright’s perfect game was broken up in the fourth when he allowed back-to-back one-out singles. He got Will Allen to hit into a double play to end the inning, eliciting his celebration. A fist-pumping Cartwright raced from the mound as Ole Miss fans booed.
“That was big,” he said. “Our pitching staff is dominating right now. Doesn’t matter who’s going out there. We’re throwing up zeroes. We all pitched with conviction today. We all show some heart out there.”
Cartwright was yanked after the fourth, but when he was out there, he hurled a gem. He struck out two, induced five ground outs and forced three fly outs.
The plan was for him to throw just two innings. Cartwright was told he would be starting on Saturday morning. It was just his second start of the season.
“Unbelievable what he went out there and did,” Devall said.
Devall struck out two and allowed two hits in 2.2 innings. Bugg entered when things got dicey.
The 6-foot-6 freshman induced a fly out to strand a runner at second in the seventh. McCune closed the game on the mound, but not before some drama.
Austin Anderson had a one-out single. Allen followed it with a fly out in foul territory, a shot that speedy right fielder Mark Laird barely got to.
McCune then walked Sikes Orvis to put the winning run at the plate.
Perdzock hit into a game-ending groundout to second base to spark the victory celebration and send the red-clad fans streaming to the exits.
The Tigers now remain in the top fourth of the SEC standings, in range of capturing a third straight SEC West title.
“We’re battling Ole Miss for position,” Mainieri said. “We’ve got four weekends left now. ... All of our goals are still right there in front of us.”