Tennessee turns the tables, rallies late to top LSU 6-3

Tennessee hitters have left their marks — ugly ones — on LSU pitchers in the past two games.

On Saturday, the Tigers couldn’t muster any late-inning heroics at the plate to save their arms.

The Volunteers dinged a pair of LSU relievers and took the lead in the eighth inning, beating the Tigers 6-3 to even the series with a late rally at a lively Alex Box Stadium. Game 3 is set for noon Sunday.

Tennessee (26-15, 8-12 Southeastern Conference) had nine hits a night after tallying 13 in Friday’s 8-7 loss, and LSU (32-11-1, 11-8-1) left the bases loaded twice — lastly in the eighth inning.

The Vols had four of their six runs off Kurt McCune and Parker Bugg, ruining a solid five-hit outing from freshman starter Jared Poché. McCune (1-1) took the loss.

“We have to take it like men and move forward and try to win a series (Sunday),” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said afterward. “Tough loss for us. Lot of implications with the loss.”

LSU stormed back to take Friday’s series opener, overcoming two-run deficits twice and getting a game-winning single in the ninth inning from Mark Laird.

It was Tennessee’s turn Saturday in a series that has already yielded five ties and five lead changes.

The Volunteers took the lead in the eighth, scoring two runs with Joe Broussard on the mound. Both runs were charged to McCune, and both came in unique fashion.

McCune’s first two batters reached on singles, and Broussard’s first batter, Derek Lance, hit a grounder to first to score the tying run.

Kade Scivicque, starting at first base, couldn’t handle the ball well. He stepped on the base for the second out but couldn’t turn two to end the inning or throw home to get the runner.

UT got the go-ahead run when the next batter, Taylor Smart, hit a chopper up the middle.

Shortstop Alex Bregman scooped up it up while racing behind second base. He didn’t attempt a play at first, choosing instead to try to get Stewart at home.

Bregman’s momentum was carrying him toward first base, and the throw home wasn’t close. The crowd gasped as Bregman uncorked the throw, and Tennessee’s dugout erupted as Stewart scored the go-ahead run.

Mainieri said Bregman had no chance at making the play at first. Bregman agreed and said he had “a little bit of trouble” getting the ball out of his glove.

Mainieri said he regretted two moves that were critical pieces to that inning: letting McCune start the inning instead of Broussard; and placing Moore, who pinch-hit in the sixth, at catcher instead of at first for Scivicque.

“I didn’t think Kurt threw the ball poorly; just think he had some bad luck,” Mainieri said.

Scivicque has started at first just twice since April 4.

“When I made the decision today to go with Fraley against the left-handed pitcher, that pushes McMullen to the DH spot,” Mainieri said. “So if you want Scivicque to play, he’s got to catch or play first base. And (catcher Chris) Chinea’s killing left-handed pitching.”

Vincent Jackson, a pinch hitter, had a two-run homer off Bugg in the ninth to extend a one-run lead to the final margin.

Before that, though, LSU had its rally in the eighth that fell short.

Sean McMullen crushed a pitch to right field, but Pierce Bily caught it with his back nearly against the wall. Scivicque walked, then Jake Fraley singled to right.

UT reliever Trevor Bettencourt hit Christian Ibarra on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases for Moore.

“L-S-U!” chants loudly filled Alex Box as Moore stepped to the plate after a quick chat with Mainieri.

He then hit into that double play on the first pitch, deflating the largest Alex Box crowd (8,121) for an SEC game this season.

“Tyler Moore couldn’t hit a ball any harder,” Mainieri said. “Right at him.”

LSU had the leadoff man reach base in the first five innings, and the Tigers had a crucial hit-and-run play end in a double play in the seventh.

The Tigers got another solid start from Poché, a freshman, at home.

He recovered after some early woes. He pitched seven innings of five-hit ball, striking out four and allowing two runs.

Tennessee had just three base runners in his final three frames. UT got a run off Poché in the first after back-to-back one-out hits, and he worked out of a tough second inning that included an Ibarra error.

“Just kind of struggled early but found my groove,” he said. “Was able to make pitches when I couldn’t make them early in the game.

“Was able to stay low and hit my spots.”