Eighth Inning Meltdown Sees LSU Baseball Drop Series to Oral Roberts With 3-1 Loss

Tigers squander a great pitching performance from AJ Labas in series loss
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A giant hawk flew over Alex Box Stadium in the top of the eighth inning, and LSU watched as its 1-0 lead disintegrated and lose its series to Oral Roberts with a 3-1 rubber match loss. 

For much of Sunday's game, it looked as if the LSU pitching would be enough to carry an offense that wasn't able to get going. The offense had brought just one of 15 baserunners home throughout the afternoon

The Tigers hadn't allowed a run in 16 innings but in the bottom of the eighth, a single and a double from the Golden Eagles ended up scoring two runs. Two throwing errors in the inning contributed to the offensive spurt that came from seemingly nowhere and would be enough late inning heroics.

An insurance run off of closer Devin Fontenot in the ninth inning would leave the Tigers in a 3-1 hole with the top of their lineup due up. And much like the rest of the afternoon, LSU (9-3) was able to do absolutely nothing on offense with a three up, three down final inning.

Coach Paul Mainieri said after the game this is another learning experience for this young team, one that he hopes the players take to heart.

"Whether you're young, old, experienced or inexperienced, you have to learn from the mistakes that are made," Mainieri said. "It all becomes cumilative on your knowledge of the game. Understanding that each day's a new day. We went from getting blown out to blowing them out to having a 1-0 game in the eighth inning."

Once again for LSU, its starting pitcher was the story of the game but this time the Tigers spoiled a terrific outing. After six scoreless innings from Landon Marceaux on Saturday, it was roommate and game three starter AJ Labas' turn on Sunday. It was a point of pride for this staff as the Tigers went 16 straight innings without allowing a run after the Golden Eagles scored 22 runs in Friday afternoon's loss.

"Looking at Landon's day yesterday, we're pretty much the same pitcher," Labas said. "So I had pretty good command of my changeup and wanted to replicate a lot of things he did yesterday to give ourselves a chance to win."

The junior Labas struggled in his first outing but after his last two performances, it's hard not to think that was an abberation. Labas threw six scoreless innings in game three against Oral Roberts to go along with six strikeouts and five hits. 

His latest scoreless effort brings Labas to 11 consecutive innings without allowing a run, striking out 12 batters over those last two starts as well. 

The highlight of Labas' outing was striking out the side in the fourth as the command of his fastball and changeup was his most dominant inning on the mound. While not the most overpowering pitcher from a velocity standpoint, it's Labas’ command and ability to paint all four corners of the plate that make him a polarizing pitcher.

With only three hits in the game, LSU second baseman Zach Arnold and third baseman Jordan Thompson were able to work a little two out magic in the fourth with the help of the Oral Roberts defense. Back-to-back singles that included an error and an overthrown ball to home plate resulted in one run coming across in the inning.

With his RBI single in the fourth, Thompson has gone 10 straight games with at least one hit.

Nevertheless, the Tigers struggled mightily to get in scoring position on Golden Eagles starter Tanner Rogen, who struck out seven and stranded six runners on base in his six innings of work. It was difficult from top to bottom as even leadoff hitter Dylan Crews, who had opened his LSU career with at least one hit in each of his 11 starts this season, went 0-for-3 on a few hard hit balls to the outfield that didn't fall.

LSU will have an off day Monday before getting ready for five games in six days, starting with Texas Southern on Tuesday.