With aid of strong offense, LSU’s junior left-hander makes easy work of Arkansas in semifinal win
HOOVER, Ala. — Kyle Bouman forgot the score.
After all, LSU’s bats were sizzling during the fifth inning, and the LSU pitcher had lost track of the Tigers’ lead.
“I looked up in that inning we scored five (runs), looked up to see the score and saw they didn’t have any hits,” Bouman said. “First time I realized it.”
Bouman’s five-inning no-hitter ended on his next batter. Alex Gosser began the sixth with a blooping single.
Still, Bouman, a junior college transfer from Missouri, had the sparkling outing coach Paul Mainieri wanted to see six days before NCAA regionals begin.
Bouman allowed just two hits and one run over six frames in the Tigers’ 11-1 eight-inning win over Arkansas in the semifinal round of the Southeastern Conference tournament. LSU (43-14-1) meets No. 1 seed and conference champion Florida (40-20) at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in the championship game.
Bouman’s biggest feat Saturday came in the sixth. He wiggled out of a bases-loaded jam with one out, retiring three of the final four batters to allow just one run.
“I thought he just did a tremendous job for us, something that thrilled me from the first pitch to the last,” Mainieri said.
Will he start the first game of a regional Friday? If at home, LSU will play a No. 4 seed. Starting Bouman would help the coach save his best two arms — Jared Poché and Aaron Nola — for critical games later in the event.
Mainieri will wait to make that decision until after the regional field is released at 11 a.m. Monday on ESPNU.
Bouman made a loud statement Saturday with his performance, the latest in a month full of them. He’s recovered from a bad ankle sprain suffered in March, the result, Mainieri said, of his woes in April.
In his last 14.2 innings, Bouman has given up eight hits, two earned runs, walked five and struck out 10. In his first 11.1 innings in returning from the injury, Bouman allowed 11 hits and five runs.
“I think it’s behind him now,” Mainieri said of the injury. “To his credit, he said, ‘That’s not an excuse.’ I’ll make the excuse for him. I think it had something to do with it.”
Third baseman Christian Ibarra took off his baseball cap, pulled back his hair and showed off the red circular mark on his forehead.
“Probably will hurt tomorrow,” Ibarra said smiling.
A high pop fly in the third inning smacked Ibarra on the middle of his forehead. The ball ricocheted into the air, and shortstop Alex Bregman caught it for a mouth-gaping out.
The play might just find itself on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”
“I don’t know if it’s going to be a not top 10 or a top 10,” first baseman Tyler Moore said. “Could be either one.”
Ibarra lost the ball in the overcast sky and called “Breg! Breg!” for Bregman. The speedy Bregman raced over and caught the ball. It popped straight up off Ibarra’s forehead.
“Fortunately for us, Ibarra has a nice, flat forehead, so when it hit it went straight up,” Mainieri said with a chuckle.
LSU will have the advantage this time around against Florida.
The Tigers suffered their only sweep of the season in Gainesville earlier this year. They scored just 10 runs in the three-game series, losing 2-1 and 6-2 in a doubleheader and then dropping the finale 11-7.
The Tigers, playing their fourth game in five days, enter Sunday’s title game with a fresh bullpen. Florida, playing its fifth game in five days, has used much of its staff.
Eight Gators pitchers have thrown 32 or more pitches, compared to three from LSU.
All nine of Mainieri’s relievers are available, he said. Closer Joe Broussard (19 pitches) pitched the most of any reliever over the three games in Hoover. The Tigers will piece together the game with relievers as they have in Game 3s of series.
Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan did not name a starter, but said he has five pitchers who have not thrown this week.
Saturday’s announced attendance at the SEC tournament was 8,116. An estimated 3,000-plus were in purple in gold. … Florida will be the home team in Sunday’s championship game. … Mainieri is 10-16 in his career at LSU against Florida.