When Zach Arnold kicked a ball off his shoe in the fourth inning Tuesday night, it was a play indicative of LSU's night to that point. The Tigers came out flat against No. 14 Louisiana Tech and paid the price early, but an eight run scoring spurt over a two inning stretch helped overcome the shortcomings, leading to a 16-8 win to stay undefeated in midweek games.
There's no other way to put it other than LSU came out of the gate unfocused and unprepared for a game of such magnitude. By the second inning LSU found itself in a 3-0 hole based on a myriad of issues. Walks, misplayed balls in the infield and dropped balls all played roles in a down right awful start to a top 25 win opportunity.
Fiery emotions could be heard out of the dugout after a poor second inning that led to a third position change nine outs into the ball game. LSU, which had been so good in midweek games all season, just looked sloppy. By game's end it was shocking to look at the box score and see that only two errors had been committed.
An opportunity to wipe the slate clean in the bottom of the second with two runners in scoring position was lost on a strikeout and deep popfly in foul play. Trailing 4-0 after another run was surrendered in the third, all of the energy in Alex Box had been sucked out.
But LSU started to claw its way back into the game, starting with a monstrous third inning that saw three runs come across and a five run fourth inning that helped the Tigers take an 8-6 lead. Most of the offense played a role in getting the Tigers back on track but the highlight of the night was Zach Arnold, who was subbed into the game in the second inning at shortstop.
Arnold started the game 2-for-2 with a pair of doubles, the second of which scored two runs. He was then hit by a pitch in the fourth inning that scored another run as LSU would nearly bat around the order twice in the two innings.
Dylan Crews, Gavin Dugas and Mitchell Sanford all had critical RBI swings in the offensive spurt that was much needed as the Bulldogs wouldn't go down quietly. Between Arnold and Sanford, two players who were subbed in early in the game, the two combined for six RBI in the game.
"You've just always gotta be ready, you never know when your number is gonna be called," Arnold said. "That was a big thing for me, just staying ready. I just got some good pitches and was able to put good swings on them and do what I could for the team.
"They stepped into a role they weren't expected to and did their job," Morgan said of Arnold and Sanford. "Every time somebody steps up we expect a hit and they just did their job tonight."
Facing an 8-8 game in the bottom of the fifth, a leadoff double from Cade Beloso was followed by a perfectly laid bunt by Drew Bianco to put runners on the corners with no outs. With the top of the order turned, LSU picked up a critical RBI single from Tre Morgan, who went 3-for-4 on the evening, starting what would become a five run inning to put some separation between the Bulldogs.
"Our offense was the story of the night," Paul Mainieri said after the game. "I knew we'd have to hit because they're relentless. We got some big hits and take the lead. I feel like we still had more in us."
After allowing Louisiana Tech to score at least one run in the first five innings of the game, Blake Money and Trent Vietmeier were able to pitch scoreless innings to not force another lead change.
LSU will now prepare for its final home series of the season when Alabama comes to town for a critical three game slate.