BATON ROUGE -- Jeremy Witten hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to power LSU to a 8-6 come-from-behind win over second-ranked South Carolina in game one of the weekend series Friday night in Alex Box Stadium.
Trailing 6-4 in the bottom of the ninth, Brad Cresse hit a line drive over the head of shortstop Bryon Jeffcoat and left fielder Nate Janowitz miss played the ball allow Cresse to advance to second. After Tommy Morel pinch ran for Cresse, Brad Hawpe dribbled a single past Jeffcoat to score Morel and cut the lead to 6-5. With no outs and Billy McBride pinch running for Hawpe, Blair Barbier singled up the middle to put runners on first and second.
Wally Pontiff then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third with one out and Jeremy Witten up to bat for the game winning home run.
LSU (17-8, 4-2 SEC) extended the team's winning streak to six games including four in the Southeastern Conference. South Carolina lost for only the second time in 25 games this season and fell to 5-2 in conference play.
After finishing off the ninth inning for the Tigers, Ben Saxon earned the win and improved to 3-0 on the season. USC reliever Scott Barber gave up the game-winning shot to Witten and received the loss. He fell to 3-1 on the season after pitching four innings and giving up four runs on five hits.
The win was the 12th for LSU in the 15-game history of the two schools.
Mike Fontenot added two hits, two runs and two RBI for LSU, while Brad Cresse recorded three hits for the Tigers. Each hit home runs.
Tallet began the game by sitting the first three Gamecocks down in order on two ground outs to the first baseman and a strikeout to end the inning.
In the bottom half of the first, Fontenot drew a leadoff walk but was thrown out at first after center fielder Marcus McBeth made a shoestring catch to start the double play. With two outs, Cresse extended his hitting streak to 18 games with a single past the shortstop, and he advanced to third on a single up the middle by Brad Hawpe. However, the LSU threat ended when Blair Barbier flew out to left field.
Once again in the top of the second, Tallet retired three straight batters on two fly outs and an inning-ended strikeout. But in the third, he would load the bases on two walks and a single and allow two runners to score on another walk and a wild pitch. Before being relieved by Hunter Gomez with two outs, Tallet would hit Chris Plummer with a pitch to reload the bases.
South Carolina first baseman Tripp Kelly would then blast his 10th home run, a grand slam, into the parking lot over the left field bleachers. The round-tripper was only the second hit of the game by the Gamecocks. Gomez would strike the next batter out looking to end the third.
Tallet would only pitch 2 2/3 innings and allow five runs on one hit. He struck out three and walked four batters.
The top of the order came to the plate for the Tigers in the bottom of the third. LSU tried to answer the six third-inning runs by USC with a rally, as Fontenot and Ryan Theriot each singled up the middle to start the inning and Cresse was hit by a pitch for the ninth time this season. After Hawpe struck out, Barbier hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Fontenot from third and make the score 6-1. However, Wally Pontiff flew out the end the inning.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, South Carolina put runners on first and second before Gomez struck out Brennan Dees to end the inning.
LSU mounted a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the inning when Ray Wright singled past the pitcher and Fontenot hit a wind-aided line drive which barely cleared the fence in left-center field to get LSU within three runs, 6-3.
The Tigers would benefit from a double play to get out of the fifth only to strike again with the long ball in the bottom of the inning. To lead off, Cresse hit a rocket into the night and onto Nicholson Drive for his 10th home run of the season, a solo shot to right-center field. Barbier and Pontiff reached base on a single and an error on a fielder's choice to chase USC's stater, Bouknight, however, Jeremy Witten and Jeff Lipari struck out to end the inning.
USC and LSU would both go quietly in the sixth, and Gomez would work his way out of a jam in the seventh to keep the Tigers close.
Pontiff would single and Witten would walk with two outs in the seventh to bring the go-ahead run to the plate. However, Lipari failed to move the runners home after grounding softly to the first baseman to end the threat.
In the eighth, Gomez would once again work his magic and hold the Gamecocks scoreless, however, LSU went down in order in the bottom of the inning and were down to one at bat.
After a leadoff double by Dees, Gomez was lifted in favor of Shane Youman. Gomez would leave the game after 5 1/3 innings. He allowed only one run (the grand slam by Kelly) on six hits while walking two and striking out five. Youman would strike out the only batter he faced, as righthander Ben Saxon entered the game to pitch Plummer.á
Saxon would force Plummer to line out to left before Kelly flew out the Fontenot to end the inning.
Witten's heroics in the ninth gave LSU the game-one victory.
Game two of the series will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday while game three begins at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.