HOOVER, Ala. — LSU coach Paul Mainieri didn't want to drive all the way to Hoover, Ala. and go home after one game.
Mainieri got his wish as the fifth-seeded Tigers defeated No. 12 South Carolina 8-6 in a single elimination game to start the Southeastern Conference Tournament Tuesday night.
"We definitely didn't want to come here and go one and done," said junior shortstop Josh Smith. "We accomplished that goal, so now we got another game tomorrow and hopefully we keep winning those."
Smith was dominant at the plate against the Gamecocks, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. He lead off the game for LSU with a solo home run to deep right field, but that was all the Tigers were able to get across the plate in the first.
"That was pretty special for me," Smith said. "I didn't get to play here last year so to come out in my first at bat and hit a home run was something you dream about as a kid here. It was cool."
But the Tigers dug themselves into a hole in the top of the second inning.
"The second inning was kind of Murphy's Law," Mainieri said.
"I just felt like we needed to stop them. I didn't have any doubt that we could score some runs, we just needed to stop them."
South Carolina started the inning with an infield single and a catcher's interference put runners on first and second with one out.
An RBI double from Gamecocks' first baseman Chris Cullen gave them an 2-1 lead. RBI singles from left fielder Andrew Eyster and catcher Luke Berryhill gave South Carolina a 5-1 lead going into the bottom half of the inning.
"We knew we had eight innings left of baseball," Smith said. "Nothing changed. We've been there before. We knew we had a lot of game let and everybody's energy was high. We were ready to get it going."
And they did get it going.
LSU cut South Carolina's lead to 5-3 when freshman designated hitter Cade Beloso hit a two-out, two-RBI single in the bottom half of the second inning.
Right-hander Devin Fontenot came in to pitch in relief in the top of the third inning, getting out of jams in the third and fourth and stranding runners in scoring position.
The Tigers scored three runs on four hits to take the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Sophomore second baseman Hal Hughes was hit by a pitch and advanced twice on wild pitches. An RBI single cut the lead to 5-4. Smith then scored on another wild pitch to tie the game and an RBI single from sophomore left fielder Daniel Cabrera gave LSU a 6-5 lead.
"When we tied the game up, you feel like a sense of relief that we had fought all the way back," Mainieri said. "They it was like 'Okay guys, let's just relax and have some fun.' I thought we played much better from that point on."
The Tigers extended their lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Hughes once again got on base, this time with a walk to start the inning and Broussard followed with a bunt single to put runners on first and second with one out.
RBI singles from Duplantis and Beloso extended the lead to 8-5.
After walking the leadoff batter and hitting the next, Fontenot was pulled in favor of Todd Peterson. In 4.1 innings of work, Fontenot no runs on one hit and four strikeouts.
Peterson stranded the runners to end the inning and completed the game for the Tigers. In 2.2 innings, he allowed one hit and one earned run in a closing role.
A sac fly from outfielder TJ Hopkins cut LSU's lead to 8-6 in the top of the eighth inning.
LSU will return to the Hoover Metropolitan Stadium on Wednesday night to face four-seed Mississippi State. The Tigers went 2-1 in a series against the Bulldogs earlier in the season.
"We always play pretty well here, so we know we have to play a tough Mississippi State team tomorrow and we're looking forward to playing those guys and seeing where we can go," Smith said.