Alex Box Stadium fell deathly silent when Jaden Hill called Paul Mainieri and athletic trainer Corey Couture over from the dugout. The Tigers' starter, a likely top 10 pick in this upcoming MLB draft, was in the middle of one of the most important pitching performances of his career before having it end prematurely.
An elbow injury forced Hill to walk off the mound in the second inning with the Tigers eventually allowing five runs in the inning and losing the game and series to the visiting Commodores 11-2. Coach Paul Mainieri said after the game the team doesn't know the extent of Hill's injury and that further examination will be conducted on Monday.
"We're gonna keep our optimism up and hope for the best," Mainieri said. "It's heartbreaking to see something like that. That was the worst thing of the evening. I was really numb after that. It wasn't just any kid, it was a kid with a lot at stake this year."
Mainieri said that Hill was feeling fine until that final pitch, a changeup, where he felt something in his elbow. There was no pain according to what Hill told Mainieri, which is a positive sign as a tear or major structural damage would've been felt instantly.
It was another hard to watch performance from the second inning on as all of the issues that have plagued this team in conference play all cropped up at the same time. The bats were slow out of the gate on starter Jack Leiter and missed opportunities on the mound contributed to another blowout loss. In two games against the No. 1 team in the country, the Tigers have been outscored a combined 24-3.
Entering Friday night's game, Leiter had fired 16 straight hitless innings to begin SEC play. Leiter continued that streak to 20 innings against the Tigers and did so in absolutely dominant fashion.
LSU's best chance to put some runs up came in the first as an error and two walks loaded the bases with one out. But back-to-back strikeouts to Cade Doughty and Cade Beloso ended the threat and started a barrage of strikeouts for the Commodores likely top 2 MLB draft pick.
Leiter proceeded to strikeout 10 of the next 12 batters he faced after loading the bases in the first, completely dominating the LSU offense with 12 total strikeouts before being replaced in the seventh inning.
LSU's offense was able to put a little something together in a 7-0 hole in the fifth. Singles from Collier Cranford and Tre Morgan were the first hits allowed by Leiter in all of conference play and one run was eventually brought in by Will Safford, much to the appeasement of the Alex Box crowd. Doughty was able to blast his ninth home run of the season off Leiter in the sixth for another nice moment.
But it was all for show at that point with the game well out of hand. The Tigers finished with three hits to the Commodores 12 for the evening and have been out hit 30 to eight in two games.
"We just didn't execute to the best of our abilities," Doughty said. "We're still taking it one game at a time, we're staying up and hoping to find some barrels. I think moving forward, it's gonna start falling for us."
The Tigers will look to avoid a sixth straight conference loss on Saturday with AJ Labas on the mound.