Hess gets injured early, but LSU wins a wild SEC series opener at Missouri
The bad news about LSU’s SEC series Friday night opener at Missouri is coach Paul Mainieri’s Tigers allowed more runs than in their first four conference series openers this season combined.
The good news is LSU scored more runs that it had combined in those same first four league series openers.
The best news is after a back-and-forth slugfest that started with No. 8 LSU losing starting pitcher Zach Hess with a leg injury in the first inning, the visiting Tigers emerged as a 12-11 road victor in 10 innings.
Right fielder Antoine Duplantis’ RBI ground ball scored shortstop Josh Smith with the game-deciding run in the top of the 10th and closer Devin Fontenot retired Missouri in order in the bottom of the 10th to preserve the win.
LSU (24-11 overall, 9-4 SEC) trailed 6-3 in the first inning, led 11-6 after four innings and fell into a 11-11 tie after six innings before Smith slid home a nano-second before Missouri catcher Chad McDaniel’s tag.
LSU had 13 hits off three Missouri pitchers. Four Tigers produced multiple hits, led by three from first baseman Cade Beloso. Beloso and designated hitter Brandt Broussard had three RBIs each as four Tigers had multiple RBIs.
It wasn’t by design that LSU used five pitchers, including its best two closers. When an injured Hess unexpectedly departed after throwing just 13 pitches, the Tigers needed every scoreless inning they could get from their relievers against Mizzou (23-12-1, 5-7-1).
After reliever Ma’Khail Hilliard overcame the early shock replacing Hess in Missouri’s six-run first inning, he held Mizzou scoreless for the next three innings while LSU took command.
Then in the game’s last four innings, LSU relievers Todd Pederson and Fontenot didn’t allow any runs or hits.
Considering LSU had scored just two runs in the first six innings in all of its four SEC series openers combined, it was imperative that the Tigers came out swinging.
LSU certainly did. It scored 11 runs in the first four innings and appeared it might pull away before Mizzou reliever Konnor Ash blanked LSU for five straight innings.
Missouri pulled into an 11-11 tie on McDaniel’s two-out, three-run homer off LSU reliever Trent Vietmeier in the sixth.
From that point on, both teams couldn’t get on the scoreboard until LSU’s game-winning rally.