BATON ROUGE, La. (release) -- Down 3-2 heading to the eighth, Tennessee scored two runs in each of the final two frames to snap a seven-game losing streak to LSU on Saturday night, as the Vols evened the series by handing the sixth-ranked Tigers a 6-3 loss in front of 8,121 at Alex Box Stadium.
The win by Tennessee improves the Big Orange to 26-15 overall and 8-12 in Southeastern Conference action. It was the first victory over LSU since April 19, 2009, when UT took a 9-4 decision in Baton Rouge. It’s also just the fourth home loss of the season for the Tigers, who fall to 32-11-1 overall and 11-8-1 in league play.
“I’m proud of [the team],” said head coach Dave Serrano. “Before we got off the bus today I talked to them about expecting to win. I told them, ‘Don’t get off this bus if you don’t expect to win this series.’ We’re only halfway done with it – we have another challenge tomorrow – but I’m proud of how they responded. That was a tough game in many facets. We made pitches when we had to; we had good at-bats when we had to. I’m proud of them.”
After a great play in the field by the shortstop – creating an unassisted double play with a diving grab – A.J. Simcox got the rally going at the plate in the top of the eighth with a leadoff single through the right side. Christin Stewart followed with his second hit of the night – a single into center – and Simcox ran the bases aggressively to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Following a strikeout by Nick Senzel, LSU brought on closer Joe Broussard, who earned the win with a dominant ninth inning on Friday night.
Sophomore Derek Lance, who tied the game at 2-2 with his second career home run in the fourth, came up with another big at-bat in the series, tying the game at 3-3 with a RBI groundout. Stewart took off from second on a 2-2 pitch to Taylor Smart, who chopped a ball up the middle. It was fielded by LSU shortstop Alex Bregman behind second and he was unsuccessful in his attempt to cut down Stewart at the plate, giving the Vols a 4-3 lead. It was UT’s first lead since being on top 1-0 in the first inning.
Leading 4-3, Tennessee got into some trouble in the bottom of the eighth as LSU loaded the bags with one out. However, reliever Trevor Bettencourt drew a clutch 4-6-3 double play on his first pitch to Tyler Moore to end the threat.
Vincent Jackson tacked on two huge insurance runs in the top half of the ninth with a pinch-hit two-run shot over the right field wall to put UT on top, 6-3. It was Jackson’s second dinger of the season and his second in the past three games. It was also the Vols’ first pinch-hit homer since Chris Pierce hit one against New Orleans on March 8, 2011 and just the second time this season UT has homered at least twice in a game.
After surrendering a leadoff walk, Tennessee closer Andrew Lee drew a fly out, groundout and struck out Bregman to earn his second save and even the series. Freshman Hunter Martin (3-2) got the win, while LSU’s Kurt McCune (1-1) took the loss. Martin took the ball from starter Andy Cox after five innings and allowed just two hits and struck out one in 2 1/3 innings.
Simcox ripped a one-out single into center field and Stewart extended his hit streak to seven games with his team-leading 14th double in the top of the first inning, putting two runners in scoring position. Senzel put a first-inning run on the board for UT with a fielder’s choice to score Simcox.
LSU answered quickly as Bregman bounced a RBI single through the right side to bring home LSU’s Andrew Stevenson to tie the game at 1-1. Stevenson led off the bottom half of the first with a single up the middle off Cox.
After loading the bases and coming away with nothing in the bottom half of the second, LSU was able to break the tie with a sac fly to left field by Jake Fraley in the third. Bregman doubled to leadoff, was moved to third on a sac bunt by Kade Scivicque and brought home by Fraley to make it 2-1 in favor of the Tigers.
Lance quickly answered for the Big Orange as he jumped all over a 0-2 off-speed pitch and sent it just over the left field wall to leadoff the fourth inning. Lance’s second home run of the season and his career tied the game at 2-2. The dinger put Lance in double figures for RBIs this season.
Again, the Tigers answered with some small ball. A leadoff single, sac bunt and another single gave LSU the lead right back at 3-2. Friday night’s walk-off hero Mark Laird delivered the RBI single into left field.
Hunter Martin, Bettencourt and Lee held the Tigers scoreless for the rest of the game, allowing the Vol offense to post four runs over the final two frames and even the series.
Tennessee goes for just its third series win over the Tigers in Baton Rouge on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. Senior right-hander Nick Williams takes the mound for the Vols.