No. 4 LSU took the first game of its mega-matchup with No. 3 Kentucky on Friday, but the Tigers failed to capitalize for the second straight time Sunday, dropping a 7-6 decision and losing the series.
Overview: This has to feel like a game that got away for the Tigers (32-9, 12-6). LSU came up just one run short and made a slew of mental mistakes on the base paths, not to mention some severe bad luck. Whether it was Austin Nola getting thrown out at the plate t0 end the second inning, or Tyler Hanover being caught stealing second with no outs in the sixth, the Tigers accidentally threw away several base runners.
LSU also grounded into a frustrating three double plays. Nola hit the first of the trio with no outs and two runners on base with the Tigers trailing, 3-1, in the fourth inning. Casey Yocum killed off a potential rally in the seventh inning, when he hit the second with one runner on first and LSU trailing, 7-5. Jordy Snikeris completed the trifecta in the next frame when he ended a rally attempt by hitting into a 4-6-3 play.
Turning point: For all the offensive miscues, it was an uncharacteristic collapse by the LSU bullpen that paved the way for the Wildcats (35-6, 13-5). LSU starter Aaron Nola ceded the mound to Joey Bourgeois (1-2) with the Tigers holding a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning, which turned out to be a nightmare for the LSU pitching staff. Bourgeois, whose season ERA was 1.50, surrendered back-to-back doubles to the Kentucky lineup and was yanked after one out. His replacement, Chris Cotton, fared no better and surrendered back-to-back doubles of his own.
Nick Rumbelow came in to kill off the rally, but the damage had been done to the tune of three runs and the Wildcats' eventual game-winning run.
Key player: Kentucky reliever Alex Phillips closed the door on the Tigers over the final two innings. Phillips surrendered two hits and allowed a run in the eighth inning, but he rebounded to force Snikeris' double play ball, and he sat LSU down in order in the ninth to clinch the win.
Key stat: Although the Tigers lost, Raph Rhymes went an impressive 4-of-4 from the plate with three RBI. Rhymes' big afternoon pushed his season batting average up to an absurd .500 mark.
Miscellaneous: The loss gives LSU its second SEC series defeat of the season -- its second on the road. The Tigers finish the conference season with two more home series and two more road trips.
Up next: Georgia comes to Alex Box Stadium next weekend.