A Purdue sophomore southpaw by the name of Gavin Downs made a top-10 LSU (13-2) program look completely lost at the plate for six innings in Alex Box Stadium on Saturday night.
One inning later, Downs and his bullpen would put a charge into the formerly lifeless heart of the Tigers’ batting order, resulting in an LSU 4-2 victory.
LSU senior designated hitter Sean McMullen led off the bottom of the seventh with a single, then Downs hit junior catcher Kade Scivicque.
Following LSU senior third baseman Christian Ibarra’s sacrifice bunt to put two runners in scoring position, Purdue coach Doug Schreiber proceeded to pull Downs and play the matchups with left-hander Tim McElroy on to face LSU sophomore center fielder Andrew Stevenson, a left hander.
Stevenson drove the Tigers’ first run home with a sacrifice fly to left field. LSU coach Paul Mainieri then chose to use junior infielder Conner Hale off the bench.
Schreiber countered by sending right-hander Mike Lutz to the mound.
Hale, who had been struggling at the plate as of late, looked to change his approach.
“In my slump, I think I was trying to pull the ball too much,” Hale said. “Tonight I was just trying to go up the middle or to the right side, and that’s what I did.”
He roped a base hit to center field, driving in Scivicque and tying the game at 2-2.
LSU’s next hitter – junior left fielder Chris Sciambra – wasted no time giving the Tigers the lead for the first time in the contest.
He roped an RBI single to right field on the first pitch to put LSU ahead of Purdue.
“I took a little quote out of the [LSU sophomore shortstop] Alex Bregman playbook, and I was thinking the top-half of the baseball because we were getting some lazy fly ball outs,” Sciambra said. “With two outs like that, you just want to make them make a play. I was thinking top-half, and that’s what I did, and luckily it found a hole.”
In the bottom of the eighth, McMullen hit an RBI double to left field to make it a 4-2 game.
Tigers’ junior right-hander Joe Broussard retired the Boilermakers in order in the top of the ninth, securing the first comeback victory for LSU in the 2014 campaign.
Sciambra said it was the kind of game a youthful Tigers team needed to experience.
“Some of the older guys believe that we can come back and win every game, but since this team has such a number of new guys out there, then I think there needs to be an experience before we go into [Southeastern Conference] play to show that we can win in any situation,” he said. “This just proves that we have at this point forward, we’re in it until they get the 27th out.”
On the mound, LSU junior southpaw Kyle Bouman went toe-to-toe with Downs, tossing 6 2/3 innings and surrendering two runs and recording five strikeouts. He didn’t surrender a walk.
With two outs and a Purdue runner on second base in the top of the fourth inning, Bouman was charged with a run after a fly ball bounced off the glove of sophomore right fielder Mark Laird on a sliding catch attempt.
Bouman said Downs’ success for Purdue added a little extra pressure on Saturday night.
“The pressure is definitely on a little more, but my game has to stay the same,” Bouman said. “I have to just keep us in the game as much as I can, and I can’t focus on how good he’s doing over there.”