LSU baseball can’t hold on, falls to No. 1 TCU 9-6 in Houston –

HOUSTON — If baseball games lasted one inning, the LSU baseball team would be the No. 1 team in America right now.

But they don’t. And it isn’t.

Behind an uncharacteristically bad outing from ace right-hander Alex Lange, the No. 3 LSU baseball team fell to No. 1 TCU 9-6 Friday night. The loss dropped LSU to 8-2 on the season, with both losses coming the two times the Tigers strayed outside of Baton Rouge.

The Tigers jumped out to an early 4-1 lead over the Horned Frogs, plating four runners in the first inning off three softly-hit singles, a walk and a ringing double off the left-field wall by designated hitter Jordan Romero. After jumping out to that lead, the Tigers returned to the field expecting Lange to toss a shutdown inning and usher them back into the dugout.

He didn’t and he didn’t.

Lange didn’t have his best stuff Friday, lasting just 1.2 innings, allowing six runs on five hits and three walks. Though he allowed one run on two hits in the first inning, Lange’s real struggles came in the second. After opening the frame with a quick groundout, Lange walked the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the TCU lineup, only to watch TCU leadoff hitter Austen Wade clear the bases with a game-tying three-run home run.

Three batters later, designated hitter and freshman All-American Luken Baker added a two-run home run of his own, chasing Lange from the game.

Relief pitcher Austin Bain turned in 3.1 innings behind Lange, allowing one run on three hits, two walks and two wild pitches with three strikeouts. Russell Reynolds followed Bain, striking out four and allowing one run in three innings of relief.

After being shut out for seven innings, LSU tacked its fifth and sixth runs on the board in the ninth innings off a handful of TCU defensive miscues.

Player of the Game: Cole Freeman

After its potent first inning, LSU’s bats went cold. Except for Cole Freeman’s.

Freeman went 3-for-4 Friday, finishing with two singles, a double and a walk. The senior second baseman accounted for two of LSU’s four hits in the game’s final eight innings.

With his performance, Freeman improved his batting average on the year to .531 (17-for-32), with 10 runs scored and an on-base percentage of .610.

Starter’s spotlight

In Lange’s first two starts of the season, he thrived in large part due to his command. Over 11 innings, Lange walked just two batters while striking out 18.

Early on in Friday’s outing, it was evident that Lange didn’t have the same sort of command. He walked three batters, all of whom came around to score. All six of the runs Lange allowed came via extra-base hits as well, showing that he was missing spots in the zone as much as he was missing them out of the zone.

Perhaps the most alarming part of Lange’s night was his elevated pitch count. Lange needed 65 pitches to get through 1.2 innings, an average of five pitches per batter faced. Even his outs came the hard way, most notably his first-inning strikeout of Luken Baker.

Stat of the Game: Strikeouts

Prior to tonight’s game, LSU’s offense struck out an average of 4.7 times per game. But tonight, LSU struck out eight times, five of which to end innings, stranding four men on base.

It goes without saying that, for a team that makes its living by getting on base, strikeouts kill juju. Just look at the divide between the first inning and the other eight. In the first inning, LSU had six men reach base. Four of them came across to score. In the next seven innings, seven batters reached base. Only one even got to third base.

What’s next for LSU baseball?

The Tigers stay in Houston tomorrow for Game 2 of the Shriners Hospitals Children’s Classic, facing off against No. 17 Baylor. Baylor is one of the five remaining unbeaten teams in college baseball after its 4-0 win over Ole Miss Friday afternoon.

Box score

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