Freshmen arms Chase Shores and Griffin Herring lead LSU baseball past Tennessee for series win
BATON ROUGE – When Arkansas pinch hitter Reese Robinnet's three-run home run landed to hand the Razorbacks a three-run lead in the 10th inning, concerns about No. 1 LSU baseball's bullpen resurfaced.
It was the second time during conference play the Tigers had blown a game because of their relief pitching. And control issues had started to become a problem for the unit.
But that was a week ago. A lot can change in one week.
LSU (24-3, 6-2 SEC) won again on Friday, defeating No. 9 Tennessee on the back of a stellar performance from its bullpen. Freshman relievers Chase Shores and Griffin Herring combined to pitch four innings of shutout baseball, surrendering just two hits, walking nobody and striking out six hitters.
"I think it would be hard-pressed to find two more talented guys at that age than Chase and Griffin," LSU coach Jay Johnson said.
The Volunteers' (20-8, 3-5) offense had been dangerous all night, hitting three home runs off of LSU starter Ty Floyd. But with enough offense – the Tigers had nine extra-base hits – and fantastic outings from the freshmen, LSU was able to clinch the series victory.
"(Pitching coach Wes (Johnson), he always tells us that it's like a free steroid shot every time you go out there," Herring said. "I just trust my instincts."
LSU will look to earn the series sweep on Saturday (1 p.m., SEC Network+).
Ty Floyd and the long ball
Keeping the ball inside the park has become a problem for Ty Floyd.
Floyd, who entered Friday's start tied for first on the team with three home runs allowed this season, surrendered three more bombs against the Volunteers. In five innings pitched, it was half of the hits he allowed on the night.
Given how well he pitched last Saturday against Arkansas after allowing just one home run, lowering his rate on long balls allowed will go a long way for him.
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Trailing 4-3 with one out in the fourth inning, LSU needed a boost. That's when Brady Neal came to the plate.
Neal, the freshman catcher known for his defensive prowess, entered Friday's contest with only two home runs and four extra-base hits this season. He had shown some potential at the plate, but it hadn't been overwhelming.
Until he walked up to the plate.
After fouling off four pitches, and on the sixth pitch of the at-bat, Neal sent a ball deep into the right field bleachers to tie the game for the Tigers. Gavin Dugas, the leadoff hitter, then blasted his second home run in two games to give LSU the lead.
"Brady is a confident cat, man. He just turned 18 and you would think he's been rolling around this joint for a long time," Jay Johnson said. "And I love that about him.
"Gavin. I mean, what else (is there) to say? (If) he's not in contention to (be a) first team All-American second baseman, then I don't know who is."
Neal stepping up and Dugas' continued hot streak was enough wiggle room for LSU's bullpen to close out the game.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.
This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: LSU baseball: Tigers earn series victory over Tennessee