Monday, April 15

LSU’s 10 runs in the 8th inning help capture 14-11 comeback win over Kennesaw State | LSU


HATTIESBURG, Miss. — It looked like the LSU fans in attendance would grow claws and tear through the netting at third base after Dylan Crews lined a double in a 10-run eighth inning to help the Tigers escape what would have been a crippling loss Friday to Kennesaw State.

“I’ll be honest: I’ve never been more confident in my career up until that point,” Crews said. “That’s what makes LSU legends.”

That double gave LSU a lead, then Josh Pearson added the cherry on top with a two-run single as LSU erased a seven-run deficit to prevail 14-11 in its first game of the Hattiesburg regional at Pete Taylor Park.

The first eight LSU hitters reached to begin the eighth inning. The first out was made by Brayden Jobert, who hit into a forceout. After Josh Stevenson walked, Crews followed with his huge hit.

LSU fell behind big thanks to shaky pitching and a timid performance at the plate early on. But there’s no clock in baseball, and the Tigers had six outs left when they came alive to advance to the winners bracket to face Southern Miss at 6 pm Saturday.

Ma’Khail Hilliard’s name appeared on the lineup sheet as the starting pitcher just an hour before the game against Kennesaw State.

Some teams throw their ace on the first night of a regional regardless of who they face, while others might throw their second-best hurler. LSU opted not to save Hilliard.

Kennesaw State didn’t seem to mind much, knocking him from the game in the third inning after he had allowed five earned runs as the Owls took a 5-2 edge. The 2⅔ innings represented the shortest start of his season.

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“We haven’t really done things in a dogmatic or orthodox manner all year, and the strength is in the team. When one guy falters, another guy steps up,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “We wouldn’t be here without Ma’Khail. I’m scared to think about what the season would look like without Ma’Khail, and he didn’t have it tonight.

LSU made two pitching changes for the fifth inning while falling behind 11-4. Devin Fontenot, LSU’s third pitcher, stabilized the staff by working 3⅓ innings while allowing two hits and no earned runs after relieving Riley Cooper. That bought the bats time to come alive.

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“Riley (Cooper) is one of our best relievers and he didn’t have it tonight, so for Devin (Fontenot) to come in and give us 3⅓, pretty dominant, too,” Johnson said.

Kennesaw State leadoff batter Josh Hatcher leads the nation in hits for a reason, and LSU found that out quickly when he opened up the game by lining a ball to the left-center warning track. I have finished the game 3 for 4 from the plate. Tyler Simon, batting in the two-hole, drove in four runs with a 2-for-5 performance. His two-run double in the fifth came off Fontenot, but he struck out in his final appearance from him.

LSU took a 2-1 lead in the second inning on an RBI single by Crews, but the Owls put up their first of two four-run innings in the third. After Hatcher’s single and Zac Corbin drew a walk, Donovan Cash’s double added a pair of runs. Nick Hanson’s triple scored Cash, which forced Hilliard’s exit. Cooper relieved him, but Brayden Eidson’s RBI single added one more before he was able to remove the side.

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The Tigers stayed within striking distance when Brayden Jobert’s shot to right field scored Cade Doughty, making the score 5-4.

Simon’s two-run home run made it 7-4 in the fourth. After Cooper retired two batters in the fifth, the Owls ignited their bats again. Simon doubled off of Fontenot, who relieved Cooper after he gave up two runs, to drive in two more for an 11-4 lead.

“I’m not surprised at all, as I was preparing for them and watching video, I was convinced this was one of the best offensive teams we’ve faced all year,” Johnson said.

The top of the Tigers’ lineup was retired in order through the fifth and sixth innings. At that point in the game, the Tigers had five hits compared to the Owls’ 11. The Owls also had turned to their bullpen early, putting Jack Myers in for John Bezdicek after just 1⅔ innings.

Myers was keeping one the nation’s best lineups silent despite it returning both Jacob Berry and Doughty. Berry, returning as a switch hitter after sitting out the SEC tournament and batting right-handed against Vanderbilt, went 0 for 4 from the plate. Doughty went 1 for 3. Then they flipped the script. Berry added a hit before the night’s end and so did Doughty.

Paul Gervase finished the job from the mound in the ninth and the Tigers poured from the dugout in celebration.

“This has been a Day One thing. There’s no clock in baseball,” Johnson said. “We have the best hitters in the country. We can do stuff like that.”

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