HOOVER, Ala. — Already with two hits in the game, LSU’s Brayden Jobert stepped to the plate with the Tigers down to their last out, but with a an on third in the top of the ninth against Texas A&M.
Another hit from Jobert would have kept the game alive, but instead the the Tigers’ third baseman popped up to his Aggies counterpart. Trevor Werner caught the ball to give A&M a 5-4 win and eliminate LSU from the Southeastern Conference tournament Friday.
Next for LSU (43-15) is the expected confirmation that it will host a regional. NCAA tournament seeding will be announced Monday.
While elements of LSU’s pitching showed promise through the first two games of the SEC tournament, some of the staff’s struggles combined with a lineup that couldn’t cash in on opportunities led to the Tigers’ downfall Friday against Texas A&M (35-24).
“We’ve just got to do better, we’ve been phenomenal with runners on third with less than two outs for two years and were not very good today,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “Wish we were playing tomorrow, obviously, and whether that was winning yesterday or today. There’s a lot to be gained from being here and we’ll use that to get ready for the NCAA tournament.”
There were substantial changes to LSU’s lineup ahead of its matchup with the Aggies. The only thing that remained in routine was right-hander Ty Floyd starting in the second spot of the rotation.
Floyd gave up one earned run on three hits through five innings, but when the Tigers went to the bullpen in the sixth, the Aggies capitalized on a couple of mistakes to put runners on and set up a three-run home run that would change the course of the game.
LSU rested slugger Tommy White, giving Jobert his fifth start at third. Jared Jones started at first base for the first time since May 13 against Mississippi State while Paxton Kling got his first start in right field since May 7 against Auburn.
The top of the lineup also changed. Dylan Crews still batted in the leadoff position, but Tre’ Morgan was slotted second while Hayden Travinski, who started at catcher, batted third. Cade Beloso, the designated hitter, was cleanup. Josh Pearson, who had started the previous two tournament games against Arkansas and South Carolina as well as twice against Georgia the weekend before, came off the bench as a pinch runner.
The lineup was productive but was 3 for 20 with runners in scoring position, leaving 12 stranded.
In the top of the second, Beloso singled to right center and Jones followed with a walk. Gavin Dugas’ fly ball to center advanced Beloso to third, but Jones hesitated before making a run for second. He was called out on his slide into the base. LSU coach Jay Johnson challenged the call, but it stood on replay.
With the two outs, Jobert’s single brought home Beloso for LSU’s first run.
The Aggies tied the game on back-to-back doubles in the second.
LSU came back with a pair of doubles of their own in the fourth, with Jobert driving in Dugas to make it 2-1.
In the fifth, Morgan drew a walk and scored on Travinski’s double as LSU took a 3-1 lead.
Beloso then laced a single down the right field line, advancing Travinski to third before Jones struck out for the first out of the inning. Dugas attempted to bunt Travinski home, but Aggies pitcher Will Johnston scooped up the ball and tossed it catcher Max Kaufer, who tagged out Travinski. Jobert grounded out to end the frame.
“It was 3-1 at the time, and we tried to make it 4-1 and get some separation between our team and Texas A&M and I actually thought the pace of the bunt was great, he got it into the ground, but the angle wasn’t very good,” Johnson said. “We almost got it done, but we had more chances than that, though.”
LSU held that 3-1 lead through the sixth inning, but the Aggies took the lead off of the Tigers’ bullpen in the seventh. After Griffin Herring retired the side in order in the sixth, he walked the leadoff batter in the seventh and gave up a double to Austin Bost. A sac fly by Brett Minnich made it 3-2. Kaufer drew a walk before the Tigers yanked Herring, putting Sam Dutton on the mound in relief. Dutton gave up a three-run home run to Hunter Haas on a 0-1 count, which gave the Aggies a 5-3 lead.
“I thought Griffin (Herring) wasn’t as sharp in the second inning he pitched and I think he’s a great pitcher, he’s got starter-caliber stuff,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t necessarily the home run, it’s walking the guy in front of it that made it hard, had we gotten him out, we might’ve considered leaving Griffin in. I have a lot of faith in Sam (Dutton) and we’ll have to go to him in a situation where we play five games in a regional.”
The Tigers threatened in the ninth. Travinksi singled and then made it to third on a Beloso double. He then scored on a wild pitch before Dugas struck out and Jobert popped out to end the rally.
“It’s not the team with the best player — it’s the team that plays the best, which we’ve done a lot of this year, didn’t do that today, but I trust the guys we’ve got on the field,” Johnson said. “I’m excited to get back to work with them after we give them a day or two off.”
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