- Gary Laney, Reporter, GeauxTigerNation
No. 4 LSU stayed in first place in the SEC Friday thanks to the arm of ace pitcher Kevin Gausman. The big right-hander pitched a five-hitter, out-pitching Vanderbilt's T.J. Pecoraro 2-1 in the first game of the three-game SEC series. LSU (39-11, 17-8) stayed in first place in the SEC with five games to go and clinched at least a share of the SEC West.
Overview: Gausman (8-1) was the story, showing the form that has made him ESPN scout Keith Law's top college prospect in the June draft while throwing his first complete game of the season. Gausman struck out 11, walked just one and would have thrown a shutout if not for one bad play. He failed to touch first base taking the flip on Mike Yastrzemski's ground ball to first base in the third inning. That allowed the Commodores (24-25, 11-14) to score their only run of the night.
LSU also managed just five hits against Pecoraro (0-4), but the Tigers got two runs in the second inning and that was enough to move the Tigers within a win of a 40-win season.
Turning Point: LSU's two-run second inning had Pecoraro on the ropes and ultimately gave the Tigers all the runs their needed.
Raph Rhymes, who went 1-for-3 to drop his batting average under .500, led off with an infield single, then back-to-back one-out singles by Grant Dozar and Ty Ross plated Dozar. Tyler Hanover then drove a ball to deep left-center, but was robbed by a diving catch by center fielder Connor Harrell.
Dozar tagged up at third to score LSU's second run on the play, but the catch likely prevented a big Tigers' inning and allowed Pecoraro the chance to regroup and finish the game with a gem of a performance.
Key Player: Gausman was still throwing 93 mph gas with serious run in the ninth inning, allowing LSU coach Paul Mainieri the luxury of avoiding using his bullpen. It was the Gausman and Peroraro show as the two combined to get the game finished in just over two hours.
Key stat: 13 is the number of hitters Pecoraro retired in order after the Tigers' Arby Fields led off the third inning with a single. Fields' hit came just after LSU got plenty of good swings on Pecoraro in the two-run second inning and, at the time, it appeared that the Tigers' were about to turn it into a one-sided affair. But Pecoraro recovered and put the Tigers' bats to sleep the rest of the night.
Miscellaneous: LSU kept pace with No. 3 South Carolina, which opened its weekend with a 3-0 win over Georgia. Both teams are 17-8 in the SEC, a game ahead of second-place Kentucky, which also kept pace of the leaders by beating Alabama, 4-2 to move to 16-9. ... LSU finishes its season with three games at South Carolina next weekend. ... Grant Dozar went 2-for-3 for LSU and Vince Conde went 2-for-3 for Vandy, bucking the dominant pitching trend for the evening. ... Friday's game came despite threatening morning rain and threatening skies through much of the day. Saturday's 7 p.m. game will battle the same issue as rain is again in the forecast. If the game goes off as scheduled, it'll match Commodores left-hander Sam Selman (7-2, 4.25) against LSU right-hander Aaron Nola (6-2, 3.90).
6dSam Khan Jr.