How LSU baseball's 12th-inning loss to Louisiana Tech further exposed Tigers' flaws
BATON ROUGE - The frustrations of LSU baseball's season was on full display in the ninth inning.
The Tigers led by two runs against Louisiana Tech and were three outs away from escaping Alex Box Stadium with a win on Wednesday night.
Shortstop Jordan Thompson's dropped line drive allowed the leadoff hitter to reach. Three walks and one pitching change later, LSU's advantage was cut to one with nobody out. Reliever Eric Reyzelman was then replaced by Devin Fontenot. And although Fontenot induced a double play, the tying run scored.
In the 12th, a walk by Ty Floyd with the bases loaded with two outs scored the game-winning run.
The meltdown by LSU (15-6) resulted in a 7-6 loss. It was the Tigers' second defeat to Louisiana Tech (15-6) this season.
"Defensively, everybody knows that. Tonight's it's a pick-off throw and it's a dropped line drive. I don't know how you practice that anymore," LSU coach Jay Johnson said. "Pitching wise, they're doing the best they can."
Floyd's walk was the seventh allowed by an LSU pitcher since the ninth.
"When I came here I knew that would be the challenge to find a core of (pitchers)," Johnson said. "Guys are giving us everything they have. You get into problems when you ask guys to do more than they should to they're capable of and we're kind of like right in the middle of that right now."
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Ironically, what had kept the Tigers in the game was their bullpen. Trailing 4-0 and with an offense held scoreless until the fifth, the combination of Trent Vietmeier, Cale Lansville and Paul Gervase got LSU through seven innings after starter Will Hellmers was replaced in the second with the bases loaded and nobody out.
The trio allowed just one inherited runner to score in that span — when Vietmeier surrendered a sacrifice fly in the second — and didn't allow a hit.
"(I'm) really pleased with Trent Vietmeier who came in and did a nice job. Cale Lansville did a nice job. Paul was rolling pretty good," Johnson said.
LSU's bullpen hasn't had much help from a defense that's committed 37 errors in 21 games, but the unit surrendered eight runs against Texas A&M last weekend and Riley Cooper — who is tied for first on the team in appearances — has a 4.76 ERA, their first test against an SEC opponent.
A strong performance against Louisiana Tech — the bullpen allowed three earned runs in six innings in a 11-6 loss on Feb. 23 — was much needed. They were three outs from accomplishing that.
"We're trying to put them in situations to succeed," Johnson said. "Some guys have come through and some guys came through tonight."
What may have caused the bullpen to crumble was the lack of support it got from its starter. Hellmers' subpar performance was the fifth consecutive start in which a Tigers pitcher could not get past the fourth inning. In those games, LSU starters have surrendered 17 earned runs and 27 hits in 12 innings pitched.
With LSU's starters throwing so few innings and digging the team into early holes, it places even more stress on a shaky bullpen and an offense that has done more than its fair share.
"My plan was to let Will go for it tonight and hopefully get to a point where he could extend, but he just couldn't do it," Johnson said. "He just couldn't get past strike two with all of those guys."
Koki Riley is a recruiting and high school sports reporter for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.