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LSU Baseball

Another heartbreaking loss for LSU

June 3, 2024

Two defeats stood out for LSU during the Southeastern Conference schedule.

In games against both Florida and Alabama, the Tigers were one out away from a victory. Both times, LSU ended up with losses.

In the championship game of the Chapel Hill Regional on Monday night, the Tigers were two outs away from a victory over No. 4 national seed North Carolina which would have sent them to a home super-regional series against West Virginia.

With No. 1 pitcher Gage Jump entering the game with a one-run lead in the top of the ninth, LSU coach Jay Johnson had to feel good about his team’s position. But, the Tigers were unable to close the deal.

A leadoff double and a one-out single off Jump tied the score in the top of the ninth. Then, a two-out misplayed fly ball followed by a single produced the winning run in a 4-3 Tar Heels victory.

This defeat really stings because of the manner in which an underdog LSU squad nearly came out of the losers’ bracket to win the regional.

UNC had its No. 1 starter and top two relievers ready for this winner-take-all game. The Tigers were forced to use three pitchers who were not main pieces of their staff for the first seven innings.

Sam Dutton did not record an out in the first and allowed two runs. Excellent relief pitching by Javen Coleman limited the damage to a pair of runs. Coleman ran into trouble in the second, so Johnson brought in senior Will Hellmers.

Hellmers, who had thrown fewer than 20 innings all year, turned in a heroic performance. He worked 5.2 innings and blanked North Carolina on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Hellmers preserved a 3-2 LSU lead for four innings.

Johnson went to two regular members of the rotation after Hellmers issued a leadoff walk in the eighth. Nate Ackenhausen, who could not get out of the first inning in an elimination game against Wofford one day earlier, struck out three straight batters.

Jump, who pitched deep into the Tigers’ victory over Wofford on Friday, was called upon to get the last three outs. Johnson’s decision was a good one. Jump is LSU’s best pitcher. Ackenhausen emptied his tank physically and emotionally to get three outs in the eighth.

Jump simply could not get three outs before UNC scored. A double by Gavin Gallaher and a single by Colby Wilkerson tied the score. Jump did strand the go-ahead run at second base to end the inning.

It looked like Jump was going to have a quick tenth inning, but rightfielder Jake Brown misplayed a two-out fly ball for an error. Following an intentional walk, Alex Madera delivered the game-winning hit.

LSU did very little offensively against Tar Heels starter Jason DeCaro and relievers Matthew Matthijs and Dalton Pence. The Tigers scored a run on an infield out in the first and Brown hit a home run in the second off DeCaro.

Jared Jones hit a homer off Matthijs in the third to give LSU a 3-2 lead. But, the Tigers got only one hit after the third inning. With two runners on base due to a walk and an error in the eighth, Michael Braswell flied out.

With two out in the bottom of the tenth, Jones walked and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Pence retired Pearson on a fly ball to centerfield to end LSU’s season.

The Tigers exhibited much tenacity over the final three weekends of the season – winning 10 of 13 games. The three defeats came at the hands of No. 1 national seed Tennessee and the No. 4 national seed Tar Heels. Still, this loss will bother the LSU coaches and players.



Tags: Baseball
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