The confidence started growing with this LSU group in Friday's 15-2 win over Kentucky and continued into Saturday night. For the second straight evening, LSU jumped out early on Kentucky and survived a late scare, winning game two 8-6 and clinching the series over the Wildcats.
This one started out much like Friday night's game as LSU's (20-11, 3-8) offense was given early free passes via walk and hit batters that accounted for the early base runners while the bats picked it up. A pair of walks and a hit batter in the second inning was the first opportunity for a big inning.
LSU was able to take advantage with a third walk issued to nine hole hitter Zach Arnold that brought home one run and forced Kentucky to make an early pitching change, chasing starter Ryan Hagenow out of the game four outs into the contest. With the top of the order due up, a sacrifice fly from leadoff man Tre Morgan was all LSU could muster but gave AJ Labas an early 2-0 lead to work with.
The hits would start coming in the third inning as a leadoff triple for Gavin Dugas was followed by an RBI single from Cade Doughty to extend the LSU lead. A fast start to another inning would continue that "contagious" feeling that Cade Beloso had talked about Friday evening as a sacrifice fly would make it a 4-0 game.
Beloso wound up going 2-for-2 for the evening, bringing his weekend total up to 4-for-6 with six total RBI. It's been a struggle all season for the Tigers' DH but if this is a preview of what's to come, it's a game changer for this squad.
After scoring a combined 27 runs in its previous nine SEC games, the Tigers have now scored 23 combined runs in two wins over the Wildcats.
All the while the LSU offense continued its scorching start at the plate, Labas was extremely effective on the mound. The junior starter, like Landon Marceaux the previous night was extremely efficient in his outing, throwing 65 of his 98 total pitches for strikes.
When Labas has his changeup consistently working, it's a problem for opposing hitters and that was exactly the case in what was another stellar outing for the Tigers' starting pitchers. His one blemish came in the third inning as he left a fastball a little high in the zone, leading to a solo home run in the third.
But like a true vet, Labas responded by striking out the final two batters of the inning and retiring eight of the next 11 Kentucky hitters as LSU added three runs to its 4-1 lead. Labas would be replaced in the seventh inning by Ty Floyd, throwing 99 pitches, allowing six hits and three runs with six strikeouts.
"It was a really big confidence boost as a team," Labas said after the game.
The Wildcats gave LSU a big scare in the seventh by loading the bases on Labas and Floyd in a 7-2 game. A wild pitch and an RBI single would get Kentucky as close as 7-5 in the inning but Devin Fontenot was brought in to ease the bleeding and forced an inning ending double play.
Fontenot would load the bases up in the eighth as the Wildcats cut the lead to one but would get out of the inning with a pair of forced outs to second base. Clinging to a one run lead, it was a single from Doughty and RBI from Jordan Thompson that proved to be a pivotal insurance run.
"I felt really comfortable with Garrett [Edwards] coming in to close and it was really a picture perfect ending to get those final outs," Labas said. "With Jordan coming up with that clutch hit was huge also. They had the momentum and when Jordan came up with that hit you can tell it just knocked the wind out of them.
"We're growing together each and every game mentally and physically," Dugas said. "I have a lot of belief in this team, we have a really good team. I stand by it and I love these guys as my brothers and we're just gonna take this one game at a time like we have been."
LSU will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon at noon with freshman Blake Money on the mound.