Home Sports College baseball: LSU rolls past South Carolina in SEC Tournament opener

College baseball: LSU rolls past South Carolina in SEC Tournament opener

By Bill Franques, LSU Senior Associate Communications Director

HOOVER, Ala. – Right-hander Thatcher Hurd recorded his second-longest outing of the season Wednesday, and leftfielder Brayden Jobert homered to highlight a 12-hit LSU output, as the third-ranked Tigers defeated No. 19 South Carolina, 10-3, in the SEC Tournament at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium.

The win was the 400th career coaching victory for LSU coach Jay Johnson, who is in his 11th season and his second at LSU. His record is 400-207 in 11 seasons at Point Loma Nazarene, Nevada, Arizona and LSU.

LSU, the No. 3 seed in the SEC Tournament, improved to 43-13 on the year. The Tigers will play either Arkansas or Texas A&M at 4:30 p.m. CT on Thursday.

South Carolina, the tournament’s No. 6 seed, fell to 39-18 on the season, and the Gamecocks will face either Arkansas or Texas A&M at 9:30 a.m. CT on Thursday in an elimination game.

“It was a really good performance by our team,” Johnson said. “It starts with Thatcher. Great start. Had command of all his pitches. Really got himself reset when he got into any type of trouble, whether it was the count or runners on base, and he did a terrific job. We played a very clean game defensively, and when your pitcher pitches like that, it makes it much easier to do that.”

Hurd (5-2) worked 5.1 innings, limiting South Carolina to three runs on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He threw a season-high 100 pitches in the outing, and the 5.1 innings represented the most frames he’s pitched this season since firing 6.0 innings versus Butler on March 6.

Hurd started the outing by retiring the first 12 South Carolina hitters that he faced, and he did not allow a baserunner until the fifth inning.

Left-hander Nate Ackenhausen was brilliant in relief for LSU, earning his second save of the year after pitching the final 3.2 innings and allowing no runs on one hit with three walks and six strikeouts.

“With Nate, we didn’t have him for a while this season (due to injury),” Johnson said. “Of all the games he’s pitched in, we’ve only lost one time when he’s pitched. So he’s a key part of the staff. I was really proud of him and how he executed today.”

South Carolina starting pitcher Eli Jones (4-5) was charged with the loss, as he allowed four runs on five hits in 4.0 innings with one walk and three strikeouts.

Jobert was 2-for-3 on the day with a homer, two RBI and two runs scored. His two-run dinger in the bottom of the second inning – his 10th homer of the year – gave LSU a 2-0 lead.

South Carolina rightfielder Ethan Petry was the first hitter to reach base against Hurd when he unloaded a solo homer – his 22nd of the year – to start the top of the fifth inning and reduce LSU’s lead to 2-1.

The Tigers, however, responded with four runs in the bottom of the fifth, as rightfielder Josh Pearson and third baseman Tommy White each drew bases-loaded walks, and first baseman Tre’ Morgan and catcher Hayden Travinski, a former Airline standout, each provided sacrifice flies.

The Gamecocks narrowed the deficit to 6-3 in the sixth when Petry and third baseman Talmadge LeCroy each drew one-out bases-loaded walks, one by Hurd and one by reliever Sam Dutton. Ackenhausen, however, entered the game and retired two hitters with the bases loaded to end the threat.

LSU stretched its lead to 8-3 in the bottom of the sixth when Morgan and Travinski each delivered RBI singles. The Tigers added two more runs in the seventh on run-scoring singles by centerfielder Dylan Crews and by White.

“Offensively, we did a little bit of everything we do pretty well today,” Johnson said. “We’re excited to get to tomorrow’s game after getting this one under our belt.”