BATON ROUGE - No. 11 LSU wasted opportunity after opportunity Friday night, which in the end meant it threw away a critical opportunity - a strong pitching performance by ace Alex Lange at home against a non-contending South Carolina team for a 3-2 loss in front of about 9,000 at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (30-16, 13-9 Southeastern Conference) outhit the Gamecocks (27-17, 11-11 SEC) seven to five, but continually left runners on base throughout the game for a key loss with just eight more games to play in the league. Lange (5-5) took the loss despite allowing just five hits and three runs through nine innings with two walks and five strikeouts.
LSU loaded the bases in the eighth inning after one out, for example, as Nick Coomes walked, Kramer Robertson singled and Antoine Duplantis was hit by a pitch, but Jordan Romero popped out to the catcher, and Michael Papierski lined out to center field to end the inning.
The Tigers put leadoff batter Zach Watson on in the ninth with a walk, Josh Smith bunted him to second and Cole Freeman groundout to third got him to third. But Greg Deichmann was walked intentionally, and South Carolina closer Tyler Johnson struck out Jake Slaughter to end the game and earn his eighth save.
Papierski led off the LSU seventh with a single, but Watson struck out, Smith flew out to center and Cole Freeman popped out.
The Gamecocks took their 3-0 lead in the second inning. Robertson got the Tigers within 3-1 in the fourth with a solo home run to left field off South Carolina starter Wil Crowe. It was Robertson's fifth homer of the season after hitting just four in his first three seasons.
LSU looked ready to tie or take the lead in the fifth when Papierski and Watson singled with nobody out against Crowe and pulled a double steal to put runners on second and third. The Tigers then drew within 3-2 when Papierski scored on Crowe's wild pitch, and Watson reached third. After Smith popped out behind third base for LSU's first out, Crowe walked Freeman and was replaced by lefty reliever Josh Reagan. His first assignment was LSU's most dangerous hitter - Deichmann - with runners on the corners and one out.
It took Reagan all of one pitch, though, to get out of it. He jammed Deichmann inside with a fastball, and Deichmann grounded into a shortstop-second base-first base double play to end the inning. Reagan (5-1) ended up getting the win with three innings of one-hit, shutout pitching with one walk and two strikeouts.
The Tigers loaded the bases in the second inning off Crowe with two outs, but he wiggled out of that jam. Robertson singled after one out before Duplantis grounded out. Romero and Papierski then each walked to load the bases, but Watson lined out to second base to end the inning.
South Carolina took a 1-0 lead in the second when Papierski, LSU's catcher, missed the tag of South Carolina's Jonah Bride after a great throw from Deichmann in right field. At first, Bride was called out, but after a review of the play, he was called safe for the 1-0 lead with just one out and runners on the corners. SEC Network replays showed Papierski just missed the tag as Bride eluded him at the right of the plate and got his hand across it.
Lange recovered to strike out John Jones for the second out in the inning, but he allowed a two-run single up the middle to No. 9 hitter Madison Stokes, and South Carolina took its 3-0 lead. Bride had started the inning with a single off Lange. Riley Hogan then flew out to left field before T.J. Hopkins and Alex Destino singled back to back.
The series continues at 7 p.m. Saturday on the SEC Network and at 2 p.m. Sunday on ESPN.
LSU's 1997 national championship team will be honored before Saturday's game.