For the first time this season, LSU got punched in the mouth early and was never able to recover. A combination of poor defense and pitching led to one of the more lopsided results of the Paul Mainieri era as the Tigers fell in game one to Oral Roberts 22-7.
Coming into Friday afternoon's game one showdown, two win Oral Roberts had averaged 4.6 runs per contest and scored a total of 36 on the season. But against the LSU arms, the Golden Eagles scored 22 runs on 18 hits. It's the most runs LSU has allowed at Alex Box Stadium since 2001.
"I've certainly had better days at the ball park," Mainieri said. "We've gotta show a stiff back bone and bury it. It's not fun at all and you feel your kids, your team and you know there'll be better days."
It was a day that Tigers' ace Jaden Hill and the entire pitching staff will want to forget completely. Hill came out Friday afternoon and was only able to last one out into the first inning. The Oral Roberts offense opened the game with four straight hits off Hill and he just completely lost command of his fastball as the inning waned.
"You have to be strong mentally as a starting pitcher, there's no doubt about it," Mainieri said. "I don't think I know anybody mentally tougher than Jaden Hill. "He works so hard and he's isn't fragile. This is all part of the growing process for him, he's got a lot at stake and you can't make more out of it than one outing is."
In addition to five hits, Hill walked two batters and hit a third en route to an eight run albatross from the Golden Eagles hitters. After an eight run first inning, 11 more would come across in the fourth off relief pitchers Theo Millas, Ma'Khail Hilliard and Brandon Kaminer.
Walks, lack of command and hard hit balls in the gaps led to two disastrous innings that the offense simply couldn't keep up with. The demoralizing start leaked into the way the defense played as well. Between the six LSU pitchers that were thrown out on Friday afternoon, five walks were issue and five additional batters were hit by pitches.
While the pitching did struggle throughout the day, LSU's defense certainly didn't do them any favors. Centerfielder Brody Drost and left fielder Gavin Dugas both had timely mistakes as miscalculated fly balls led to five extra runs coming across in the first four innings.
Even the usually sure handed Alex Milazzo behind the plate allowed a few balls to squirt through his glove which led to advanced bases and runs.
LSU's offense tried its best to get back into the game in the early innings. Three runs in the first and four more in the second erased the Oral Roberts 8-0 lead but the 11 run fourth inning was just too big an obstacle to overcome.
Tre' Morgan, Gavin Dugas and Jordan Thompson all picked up multiple hits in the loss. Even the offense ran dry after the second inning as the only mustered up no runs and three hits over the final seven innings of play.
"We've had tough losses before. The game just humbled us today," Cade Beloso said. "Coach Mainieri said forget about this game as quickly as possible and be ready for tomorrow."
LSU will be back in action tomorrow against Oral Roberts looking to tie the series up with Landon Marceaux on the mound.
Photo courtesy of LSUsports.