LSU rallies late to beat South Carolina, advances to SEC semifinals

Published 10:53 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

HOOVER, Ala. — LSU appears to have answered any questions about its NCAA Tournament status. Now it’s just trying to earn the Southeastern Conference’s automatic bid for the fun of it.

The Tigers scored twice in the top of the ninth inning, including the go-ahead run on a two-out single by Michael Braswell III, and outlasted South Carolina 11-10 on Thursday to advance to the SEC Tournament semifinals.

“Really for the past month, every win we’ve had has been the most important win. Tonight was the best win,” LSU coach Jay Johnson said. “A lot of things didn’t go well. I thought it’s a great training ground for where we’re headed in the NCAA Tournament.”

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LSU (39-20), the defending national champion, was considered a bubble team late in the season and perhaps even as it headed to Hoover this week. It is the No. 11 seed in the SEC Tournament.

The Tigers ended the speculation, however, with convincing wins over Georgia and Kentucky to start and then Thursday’s slugfest victory over South Carolina (35-22).

LSU won its sixth game in a row. It has scored 31 runs in its three SEC Tournament games, and will play Kentucky or South Carolina Saturday at noon. Kentucky and South Carolina play each other in an elimination game Friday.

“We’ve been taking this in increments. (Wednesday’s) game was to get out of the 9:30 slot. We were playing for the afternoon championship. Tonight was the off day championship,” Johnson said. “And then we’re going to go to Fleming’s (Steakhouse). We went Sunday when we arrived and I said if we have the off day we’re going to Fleming’s again. We got the off day and we got the steaks, and a lot of very happy guys.”

The Tigers and Gamecocks traded big innings and big hits all night. South Carolina took a 5-1 lead in the third inning on a grand slam by Cole Messina, then LSU’s Jake Brown hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and Jared Jones a solo shot in the fifth to tie it.

Messina and Parker Noland each hit two-run singles in the sixth as the Gamecocks went back in front 10-7.
LSU got the last say, however. It scored two runs in the eighth inning on an error and then mounted its winning rally in the top of the ninth.

Two singles put runners at second and third for Alex Milazzo, who hit a game-tying sacrifice fly to deep left field. Braswell followed with his single down the left field line for an 11-10 LSU lead.

Braswell transferred to LSU this season after two years at South Carolina and said it was “satisfying” to get the winning hit against his former team

“I couldn’t find a moment where I’ve been happier in the sport of baseball,” Braswell said with a laugh. “I have respect for the South Carolina program, but I’m an LSU Tiger. There’s been a lot of social media things going on in recent days. To get that hit really gave me satisfaction. It meant the world to me.”