LSU

LSU pulls off improbable rally, eliminates Tennessee

HILARY SCHEINUK/ADVOCATE/FILE 
 LSU starting pitcher Jake Latz (67) pitches against McNeese State April 12 at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Latz started for LSU in its SEC Tournament opener against Tennessee.
HILARY SCHEINUK/ADVOCATE/FILE LSU starting pitcher Jake Latz (67) pitches against McNeese State April 12 at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. Latz started for LSU in its SEC Tournament opener against Tennessee.

HOOVER, Ala. -- Greg Deichmann held his bat, a stick which just unleashed an entire team's frustration of eight futile, error-filled innings into the Hoover night Tuesdays. He dropped it, albeit unwillingly, along the first-base line as his dugout spilled onto the field in jubilation and he pumped his fist rounding first.

There were no measures of distance, but Hunter Martin's 2-2 pitch landed well into the trees beyond right-center field. Deichmann's solo home run in the ninth inning was the boost a lethargic LSU team so desperately needed all night against a scrappy, but hapless, Tennessee club.

Deichmann's homer tied the game, which LSU once trailed 4-0. Beau Jordan drew a walk one batter later and advanced to second on Cole Freeman's sacrifice bunt. His pinch-hitter, Brenann Breaux, later scored on Kramer Robertson's bases-loaded single to lift LSU to a 5-4 victory in its SEC Tournament opener.

In all Tuesday, the Tigers had three runners thrown out at home plate. They made three errors, too. Two came from Robertson, a newly minted first-team All-SEC shortstop.

But as the team rushed the field to meet the shortstop, tossing their rally hats about, none of it mattered. A win is a win in this conference, Paul Mainieri usually says. The Tigers lived to see another day.

It was hardly a work of art.

After falling behind 0-1 against Tennessee starter Will Neely in the fifth inning with runners on the corners, Freeman squared and sent a rocket to charging first baseman Jordan Rodgers.

Deichmann, who was running on contact, was thrown out easily trying to score the Tigers' first run on the squeeze.

Antoine Duplantis followed with a two-out hit. As is the Tigers' philosophy with two outs, Nolan Cain waved Beau Jordan from second.

The burly left fielder was thrown out easily by Vols center fielder Brodie Leftridge, ending the only legitimate threat LSU posed to Neely in the first five innings.

Neely, who threw seven innings of one-run baseball against the Tigers when the teams met two weeks ago in Knoxville, did not allow a base runner to second until that frantic fifth inning.

LSU starter Jake Latz threw 28 pitches in his two scoreless innings -- the longest outing of his career -- allowing just Leftridge, Tennessee's leadoff hitter, to reach base.

Latz retired the next six hitters he faced without issue, adding strikeouts of Jackson, Tennessee's cleanup man, and five-hole hitter Jordan Rodgers.

Sitting in the low-90s with a nicely commanded fastball, Latz mixed more of his changeup than he'd used in his other three outings to pair with a still-purring curveball.

Austin Bain and Russell Reynolds followed Latz, each issuing a run before Parker Bugg entered to more misfortune in the sixth. He pushed the Vols' fourth run across on a wild pitch that catcher Jordan Romero couldn't corral.

The inning -- where three of Tennessee's six stolen bases occurred -- was a burden and perhaps the most trying of a rough beginning.

Romero entered the dugout, neglecting the hitters huddle that was taking place outside of it, and smashed his mask into the ground. Pitcher Alex Lange calmed the catcher, who eventually joined the team's hitters huddle outside the dugout.

The huddle, like many all season, was used to motivate and urge; anything to will hits out of suddenly dormant bats.

Deichmann delivered, dropping his bright green stick on the chalk.

LSU advances to face Florida at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The Gators earned a first-round bye.

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