LSU failed to pull off a sweep against Auburn, falling 5-4 in extra innings on Saturday.
The weekend series caps off a strong close to LSU’s season and as the Tigers have won four of their last five games heading into postseason play. LSU (34-22, 17-13 SEC) locked up the No. 5 seed in the SEC tournament, which takes place in Hoover, Alabama, next week and are making a push to host a regional.
"We did some good stuff, but we did some stuff on the wrong side of the ledger," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "The committee has a tough job all the time, and they'll figure out what the right thing is. I hope we can host and come back, but we'll have to wait and see like everybody else."
Sophomore catcher Saul Garza may have had the best weekend of any player at the plate. He raised his batting average from .213 to .257 and hit 7-for-11 and two RBIs against Auburn.
On Saturday, Garza hit a leadoff single and scored LSU’s second run of the game on a sacrifice fly by left fielder Daniel Cabrera to give the Tigers a 2-1 in the fifth inning. LSU added a run in the sixth on an RBI single by senior second baseman Brandt Broussard and again in the seventh after a sacrifice fly by freshman designated hitter Cade Beloso to extend the lead to 4-2.
LSU decided use a wholestaff approach on the mound, and of the five pitchers used, only junior Todd Peterson went more than two innings. Peterson allowed one run on two hits and no walks while striking out two before being replaced by junior Zack Hess with two outs in the eighth inning.
After earning his second save of the season on Friday, Hess made a mistake and allowed a two-run home run after a one-out walk to tie the game at four in the top of the ninth inning.
Senior Antoine Duplantis led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk, but Cabrera grounded into a fielder’s choice and Beloso grounded into a double play to end the inning and send the game into extra innings.
In extra innings, Hess retired the side in order and struck out two in the tenth inning. He came back out in the eleventh but gave an RBI double to give Auburn a 5-4 lead. Auburn appeared to have pushed the lead to 6-4 when junior center fielder Zach Watson couldn’t make a diving grab on a liner to center, allowing the runner from second to score.
However, the second base umpire ruled Watson caught the ball, thus only allowing runners to advance one base, which kept the base runner at third base and a run off the board.
Hess loaded the bases with an intentional walk but picked up his fifth strikeout of the game to end the inning, keeping the score at 5-4. But in the bottom of the inning, Duplantis ended up grounding out to end the game, and LSU will play No. 12 seed South Carolina on Tuesday in Hoover.
“I told the (team) after, don’t let my failure keep the momentum from going forward from here on out,” Hess said. “We’re playing really good baseball right now. That one is 100 percent on me – I have to get better and I have to get myself figured out.”
Despite Hess’ shortcoming on Saturday, both he and Mainieri thought the pitching staff as a whole was great and had one of its best weekends of the season against Auburn. LSU used eight pitchers and allowed seven runs on 14 hits and eight walks.
"This weekend was a real step in the right direction, and I think our guys should have a lot of confidence going into the postseason,” Mainieri said. “We'll see if we get anybody back for the postseason that could help us. That'll be a big shot in the arm for us too."