This weekend for LSU came down to late game opportunities, ones that the Tigers seemed to come on the short end every single time. On Sunday afternoon, LSU was swept by Tennessee in a 3-2 walk off loss, the second of the afternoon for the purple and gold.
After letting an 8-7 lead in the ninth slip away in game two due to an extra innings walk off, it took a second straight extra innings walk off to take down an LSU team that's just not making the game winning plays down the stretch of close games. Coach Paul Mainieri equated Sunday's results as the team being "snakebitten," comparing the slow start with the 2008 team that just seemed to be an at bat or a pitch away from winning some of these tightly contested games.
"I feel like this team, we're a little bit snakebit, we're just a pitch or an at bat away and if we can get over that hump, we can turn some of these close defeats into really good victories," Mainieri said. "It's frusterating right now for the kids, I know that."
Because the Tigers and Volunteers had to finish off game two of their series Sunday morning, the two teams were limited to a seven inning game three outing, which of course meant less opportunity. Whichever team was able to jump out on top first would have the advantage, particularly in a shorter game and the Volunteers jumped on the Tigers early.
A series of replays that didn't go in LSU's (16-8, 1-5) favor, including a great diving effort from Will Safford in centerfield, ultimately resulted in an early 1-0 Tennessee lead on starter AJ Labas. Labas was his usual cool customer self through much of his outing on Sunday but just ran into some bad fortune in the opening inning that led to a run.
The Tigers' third starter would go seven innings, allowing just two runs and four hits with three strikeouts. He ran into more trouble in the third inning when a single, a walked batter and a hit batter to leadoff the inning gave Tennessee an opportunity to seize control of the game.
However, Labas was able to limit the damage to just one run coming across with a strikeout, a groundout and a popfly to make it a 2-0 ball game. Free passes were a common theme as pitchers walked or hit a batter 21 times throughout the three game series.
LSU's offense, which had been among the very tops in the country before conference play, continued to struggle at the plate through six SEC games. The Tigers weekend can best be described with the 38 strikeouts and 25 runners left on base throughout the three games as LSU could never get into a good groove.
Designated hitter Cade Beloso did his best to try and get something cooking, blasting an opposite field home run in the fourth to cut the Volunteer lead in half. Shortstop Jordan Thompson would take advantage of a scoring opportunity in the sixth to tie the game up with two runners on base.
While Thompson's sixth inning single was one of the clutch moments of the weekend, the Tigers would strand two with three strikeouts in the inning and weren't able to take the lead in the sixth. If the Tigers had capitalized on that opportunity, it could've been a huge momentum boost over the final two innings.
"We really just gotta come in and get back to work," Morgan said after the game. "This doesn't define us as a team, doesn't define our season. We have to come together as a team."
LSU will have to try and regroup with a big series against Vanderbilt on deck. With a 1-5 start to SEC play, it feels like a must win situation for a team struggling down the stretch of close games.
"They gave it everything they had. Hard fought three game, that could've gone either way," Mainieri said. "We were one pitch away from winning (game two). Their heads are very disappointed, they gave it everything they had and we came up short."