Rain on Friday almost forced the opening game in the Vanderbilt series to be postponed until Saturday, fortunately that did not happen. Late in the afternoon the skies cleared and SEC baseball fans were treated to one of the best game of the year.
The last part of the previous sentence is saying a lot considering the classic games LSU has played this year. In LSU’s SEC opener, they battled Mississippi State for 10 innings and overcame State’s Chris Stratton’s 17 strikeouts to win 3-2. A few weeks later LSU went toe-to-toe with then top-ranked Florida and won the game thanks to Florida’s base running blunders to win 7-6 in a game many will not forget. Friday night’s game even surpassed last Fridays 13-inning 4-3 victory over Ole Miss.
Why did this game surpass those? Because it was an old-school national league pitching duel. Both Kevin Gausman and Vanderbilt’s TJ Pecoraro pitched the entire game for their respective teams and dominated the opposing offenses. The two limited the offenses to only 12 base runners all night, but LSU squeaked out a 2-1 victory.
Gausman pitched nine innings allowing only five hits, one walk and struck out 11 Commodores. Gasuman dominated Vanderbilt throwing 126 pitches on the night (71% for strikes) and held Vanderbilt to a .161 batting average. The Tiger’s ace on two separate occasions retired seven consecutive batters and between the seventh and eighth inning struck out four in a row. Only one Commodore reached second base all game (Vince Conde) and he scored the lone run of the game for Vanderbilt in the third inning off a Mike Yastrzemski single.
Vanderbilt’s offense wasn’t the only one to struggle. TJ Pecoraro pitched his best game of the season for Vanderbilt. Pecoraro had just returned a few weeks earlier coming off Tommy John surgery and pitched eight innings, allowed five hits walked one and struck out four. He limited LSU to only .179 batting and between the third and seventh inning retired 13 Tigers in a row.
Pecoraro had great numbers, but they weren’t as dominate as Gasuman’s. Pecoraro threw 102 pitched, but only 58-percent of those were for strikes. Depending on what team you root for you could say he pitched well, or the LSU offense struggled. Pecoraro took advantage of 14 Tigers fly outs and the 58-percent strikes to only one walk shows the lack of plate discipline from the LSU offense.
LSU scored their two runs in the second innings. Raph Rhymes started the innings off with a single. Rhymes finished the game one for three, and his batting average on the season is now .497. Grant Dozar singled, advancing Rhymes to second. Shout-out needed for Dozar as he was the lone Tiger to record multiple hits (2-3). Ty Ross singled behind Dozar to score Rhymes and Tyler Hanover was robbed of an extra-base hit by center-fielder Connor Harrell, but it scored Dozar.
Fortunately for LSU the two runs were all they needed to earn the victory. The Tigers did have a chance to add more runs in the seventh, but LSU was once again they were cursed by the double play. Its not every day you see the CF-1B twin killings, but that is what happened. Following a Dozar single with one-out, Ty Ross flied out to center field. For some reason Dozar failed to notice the catch and was doubled off.
The 2-1 victory clinches the SEC west for LSU and more importantly a first round bye in the SEC tournament. The Tigers go for the series win Saturday night at 7:00pm.