Friday, June 21, 2024

College baseball: Late rally lifts LSU past South Carolina in SEC Tournament

by Russell Hedges
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By Bill Franques, LSU Senior Associate Communications Director/Baseball

HOOVER, Ala. – LSU shortstop Michael Braswell III lined a two-out RBI single in the top of the ninth inning Thursday night to break a 10-10 and lift the Tigers to an 11-10 SEC Tournament win over South Carolina at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

LSU, which has won six straight games, advances to the tournament semifinal round at Noon CT Saturday versus either South Carolina or Kentucky. The Tigers improved to 39-20 on the season, while South Carolina dropped to 35-22.

South Carolina and Kentucky will play at 3 p.m. CT Friday in an elimination game, and the winner will face LSU in Saturday’s semifinal.

The Tigers are 17-5 in their last 22 games overall and 13-5 in their last 18 games against SEC teams.

“Great baseball game tonight, so proud of our team,” said LSU coach Jay Johnson. “Really for the last month, every win we’ve had has been the most important win. Tonight was the best win of the season.”

Trailing 10-9 entering the top of the ninth, LSU opened the inning with back-to-back singles by second baseman Steven Milam and by centerfielder Jake Brown. A flyout by rightfielder Ashton Larson advanced pinch runner Paxton Kling – who was running for Milam – to third base, and the Tigers tied the game when catcher Alex Milazzo delivered a sacrifice fly to score Kling.

Braswell, who played South Carolina for two seasons before transferring to LSU last summer, then delivered the game-winning hit against his former team as he slapped a single down the left-field line to score Brown.

“Michael, what a special player and performance tonight,” Johnson said. “Couldn’t be prouder of him. He’s been one of the best shortstops in the country, especially over the last three or four weeks he’s taken us to a new level since moving him into a lead-off spot. He’s playing his best baseball right now this season.”

LSU reliever Fidel Ulloa (2-1) earned the win, as he worked the final 1.2 innings and limited South Carolina to no runs on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts. Ulloa pitched around a one-single in the bottom of the ninth to secure the victory.

South Carolina reliever Chris Veach (4-2) was charged with the loss after surrendering two runs on three hits in 1.1 innings with no walks and one strikeout.

LSU grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning when second baseman Steven Milam produced an RBI single.

The Gamecocks erupted for five runs in the third as first baseman Ethan Petry provided a run-scoring double and catcher Cole Messina blasted a grand slam, his 20thhome run of the season.

LSU responded in the top of the fourth with four runs, as designated hitter Hayden Travinski lined an RBI double, Milam smacked another run-scoring single and centerfielder Jake Brown launched a two-run homer, his third dinger of the season.

The Tigers reclaimed the lead in the fifth when first baseman Jared Jones unloaded a solo homer, his 23rddinger of the year.

South Carolina tied the contest at 6-6 in the bottom of the fifth as second baseman Parker Noland lifted a sacrifice fly.

An RBI groundout in the sixth inning by third baseman Tommy White gave LSU a 7-6 advantage, but the Gamecocks struck for four runs in the bottom of the frame. Messina and second baseman Parker Nolan each lined two-out, two-run singles to give South Carolina a 10-7 lead.

A South Carolina infield error on a sharp ground ball hit by LSU leftfielder Josh Pearson with the bases loaded in the eighth inning scored two runs and allowed the Tigers to narrow the deficit to 10-9.

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