LSU takes series with 11-3 win at Auburn

AUBURN, Ala. — Earlier this week, a transformer beyond the left-field wall at Auburn’s Samford Stadium blew, creating a massive boom that jump-started the small crowd on hand to watch the Tigers play UAB.

That was nothing.

LSU unleashed an offensive explosive for the second straight night to claim the series over Auburn with an 11-3 win Friday, lighting up the visitors’ park with slicing doubles, soaring home runs and line-drive singles.

This? It’s just the norm for an LSU team that hasn’t barreled balls like this in more than a decade.

The Tigers had 12 hits Friday, their third straight game with 12 or more, and they rolled up double-digit runs in back-to-back Southeastern Conference road games for the first time since 2009.

In the past three games, LSU (39-14-1, 16-11-1) has belted 50 hits — 20 of them for extra bases. They’ve scored 48 runs, their most in three straight games since 2001.

“We’re clicking on all cylinders,” coach Paul Mainieri said.

Said pitcher Aaron Nola: “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

For once, Nola had a sparkling start overshadowed as the Tigers put on their display at the plate and helped their cause to finish in the top four in the SEC standings.

A top-four finish will get the Tigers a bye past Tuesday’s single-elimination portion of the SEC tournament. That’s key in grabbing a bid to host an NCAA regional.

They control their own destiny in that regard.

An LSU win Saturday will secure a top-four finish and a bye in the league tournament — no matter what the other teams do.

“It’s huge. We have a lot of focus on tomorrow,” said catcher Tyler Moore, who Friday got his 12th RBI in this torrid three-game stretch. “We’re going to try to come out and hit them in the mouth early.”

If LSU loses, it will not have a bye and will be the No. 5 seed in the tournament. The 5-12 game is set for Tuesday night in Hoover; that could be a rematch with Auburn in a win-or-go-home matchup.

LSU can clinch the No. 3 seed in the tournament with a win and a Mississippi State loss at Alabama. The Tigers will be the No. 4 seed if they win and MSU wins.

Simply, though, Mainieri’s team needs to win.

It might not be easy.

Auburn (28-27, 10-19) plans to start its No. 1 pitcher, Dillon Ortman, for the second time in less than 48 hours. He threw 46 pitches in two innings of Thursday’s series opener.

He will be throwing for the third time in eight days; he tossed 93 pitches against Kentucky last Saturday.

“We’re going to be facing a tough pitcher,” Mainieri said. “He’s probably pitching in the last game of his career. We’ve got to be ready for him. It’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

LSU got seven hits and six runs off Ortman on Thursday. He faced just 14 batters.

“Dillon’s a really good competitor,” outfielder Sean McMullen said. “I played with him this summer. He just loves to go out there and compete. I know he’s going to do a great job, going to do his best.”

LSU will start Kyle Bouman, the junior-college transfer who hasn’t started a game since April 22 at Tulane. The Tigers are likely to piecemeal the game with a group of relievers.

The pitchers have been solid lately.

On Friday, Nola (9-1) took a shutout into the seventh. He finished with nine strikeouts, moving to No. 3 on the school’s career list with 331. He also tied Brett Laxton for 10th in LSU history with 28 wins.

He allowed a run in the seventh, his final inning on the mound. LSU pitchers had thrown more than 26 straight scoreless innings before the run.

“Relied on the fastball tonight,” Nola said. “We got a big lead. Our offense came through tonight like last night.”

The Tigers are heating up with the postseason right around the corner.

This wild stretch started with Tuesday’s 27-0 clobbering of Northwestern State, the largest margin of victory in school history. Five LSU hurlers threw the first combined no-hitter in school history. The team then whipped Auburn 10-0 in the series opener Thursday before clinching a sixth SEC series win in 10 tries this year.

“You have to admire our kids,” Mainieri said. “They know what kind of pressure they’ve got on him this last weekend. We’ve just come out and played two magnificent games.

“Now, (Saturday), we’ve got to win a game without (Jared) Poché and Nola starting for us. That’s got to be key for us to prove that we can do that because we’ve got to win three games in a weekend to win a regional.”

Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv. For more coverage of LSU baseball, visit our Line Drives blog at blogs.theadvocate.com/linedrives.