It wasn’t a beautiful performance for the No. 9 Tigers (8-1) in Alex Box Stadium on Friday night, but LSU scrapped to a 4-3 victory against Brown with a late comeback in the eighth and a game-winning sac fly in the ninth.
The Tigers held on to a 2-1 lead until the eighth inning, but the Bears knocked in two runs off LSU junior reliever Nick Rumbelow and senior lefty Brent Bonvillain. LSU struck back in the bottom of the inning, as freshman shortstop Alex Bregman tied the game at 3-3 with an RBI single into right field.
“The guys who were leading off the inning were just trying to scrap and find a way to get on base,” Bregman said. “My approach was to hit it the other way. I wanted to let the ball get deep because I knew they weren’t going to blow one by me.”
With the Tigers looking to come away victorious in the bottom of the ninth, junior third baseman Christian Ibarra batted with a runner on third and one out. He would lift a sac fly into left field before getting a pie to the face during the postgame victory celebration.
Ibarra says he saw the whipped goodness coming.
“I saw them coming out with the towel out of the corner of my eye, and then he got me,” Ibarra said. “[It was] another ‘dude’ moment.”
The junior noted that he was looking for the Brown reliever to throw him off-balance at the plate.
“I saw a couple of fastballs, and then the last pitch was a curveball. I knew he was going to try and surprise me a little bit, so I wasn’t trying to be out front, and I waited and sat back on the ball.”
The late-game excitement wouldn’t have occurred without an exceptional performance from sophomore starting pitcher Aaron Nola. The right-hander went seven innings, giving up one unearned run on three hits and striking out a career-high 11 batters.
Nola didn’t pick up his second victory of the season, though, due to the blown lead in the eighth.
“Fortunately Aaron Nola is on our team,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “It’s really a shame that a kid can pitch his heart out like that and not get the win. He was awesome all night.”
Overall, the Tigers’ offense had a night to forget at the plate, especially with runners in scoring position. LSU went a mere 2-for-15 with men on either third or second base, making it difficult for the Tigers to push runs across on a chilly Friday evening.
“Was [the team batting average with RISP] that good?” Mainieri said jokingly. “I’m glad we won. I don’t even know how to describe [the game]. I don’t think their pitchers were particularly overpowering. When we got runners on base, our approach wasn’t good.”