How LSU baseball turned four losses in five games into a three-game winning streak

Koki Riley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE - After LSU baseball's third loss in four games, Trent Vietmeier was optimistic about the pitching staff moving forward.

"We can't figure out what it is, but I feel like once that one thing clicks, you're going to see a totally different side of us," Vietmeier, an LSU relief pitcher, said.

LSU lost its next game, the series opener to Florida a week ago Friday. But eventually, Vietmeier was right.

The No. 12 Tigers (18-7) won their third consecutive game on Tuesday night, defeating Louisiana-Monroe 15-4 at Alex Box Stadium and maintaining their momentum following back-to-back victories over the Gators.

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Against ULM, LSU starter Devin Fontenot surrendered a leadoff home run in the top of the first inning to Mason Holt. But the Tigers quickly answered, scoring six runs against ULM (8-14-1) in the bottom half of the inning. LSU's offense brought 10 batters to the plate and had five hits during the frame.

ULM cut the LSU lead to three in the fourth inning, but then two home runs from Brayden Jobert and a solo shot from Gavin Dugas helped push the Tigers well past the Warhawks' grasps.

"I think (scoring runs in a hurry) does is take the other team out of sorts in terms of their at-bats and they press a little bit," LSU coach Jay Johnson said. "When you can open up some games, it's more than just the score. It (affects) the other teams approach and what they have to do with their bullpen."

It wasn't a perfect for the Tigers' pitching staff. LSU surrendered two home runs to Holt and gave up seven hits. But with an offense averaging over 12 runs per game, it rarely needs to be perfect.

It just needs to be solid.

In the five games prior to the winning streak — LSU lost four of them — the Tigers had given up no less than six runs per game. The starters allowed 21 earned runs in 15⅓ innings pitched. 

But since then? Tigers starters have surrendered just five earned runs. Ma'Khail Hilliard threw five scoreless innings before surrendering four runs in the sixth against Florida. He had allowed 10 hits in his last start against Texas A&M.

Even the bullpen improved, striking out 18 batters in 16⅔ innings. For as dominant as its offense has been, LSU's pitching has arguably been more important during its recent turnaround.

"I thought in that (Saturday) game, our pitchers executed some things that we took and said, 'Hey, if you do this, you can be a lot more difficult to deal with,' " Johnson said. "And then Ma'Khail went out there and blueprinted it on Saturday."

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The pair of wins over Florida proved LSU could live up to its preseason accolades. The Gators had won four of their last five games and were the No. 7 team in the nation before facing the Tigers.

"Every game is a playoff game and it's not slowing down," Johnson said. "So they have to stay sharp in terms of how they prepare and how they execute."

Thursday will be a good opportunity for LSU to continue its momentum, as it hosts Auburn (17-8, 3-3) for a three-game series.

"The game on Saturday against Florida really showed us what we're capable of," Jobert said. "As long as we keep that rolling, we're going to be a very tough team to beat."

Koki Riley is a recruiting and high school sports reporter for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at kriley@theadvertiser.com.