BATON ROUGE -- LSU right-hander Anthony Ranaudo struck out a career-high 15 batters in eight innings to lift the sixth-ranked Tigers past Auburn, 7-3, in the SEC series opener Friday night at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (31-12, 12-7 SEC) won their fifth straight game versus Auburn, dating back to 2007. The Plainsmen fell to 25-17 overall and 8-11 in the Southeastern Conference.
LSU remained in second place in the SEC West, one-half game behind Arkansas (12-6). The Tigers trail Georgia (14-5) by two games in the overall league race.
Ranaudo’s 15 strikeouts were the most by a LSU pitcher in a SEC game since Kurt Ainsworth fanned 16 against Tennessee on April 2, 1999. The sophomore (5-2) also extended his league-leading strikeout total to 98 on the season.
The Tigers enjoyed a balanced attack at the plate as five different batters drove in one run apiece. Junior Ryan Schimpf sparked the ball club from the lead-off spot, batting 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, a stolen base and a RBI.
“Anthony was just unbelievable tonight,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “In 27 years of coaching, I’d have to rank that as one of the top-five pitching performances I’ve ever witnessed. He struck out 15 batters. He pitched in the clutch. He gave up three solo home runs, but the key was he was getting the batter out before those guys hit those home runs, and they ended up being only solos.”
LSU plated an early run in the bottom of the first after left fielder Blake Dean drove in Schimpf on a sacrifice fly, but Auburn tied it up at 1-1 in the second on a solo homer by shortstop Casey McElroy.
Following a scoreless third, Auburn’s Brian Fletcher broke the 1-1 tie with a solo shot to left center field in the fourth, and the visiting Tigers took a 2-1 advantage.
However, LSU came back with two runs in the bottom of the frame to retake the lead, 3-2. Third baseman Tyler Hanover walked to lead off the inning, and center fielder Mikie Mahtook singled and took second on a fielder’s choice to put two men in scoring position. Catcher Micah Gibbs then brought home Hanover on a grounder to second, and Mahtook scored one batter later on an errant throw to home plate on a fielder’s choice.
After another solo dinger from Auburn to tie it up at 3-3 in the top of the sixth, LSU scored two runs in the bottom of inning to regain a 5-3 advantage. The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs and scored the first run on a double-play ball up the middle, and second baseman DJ LeMahieu followed with a two-out, RBI single to right.
LSU added a run on a sacrifice fly by Schimpf in the seventh and another one in the eighth when Hanover notched the Tigers’ third sacrifice fly of the evening. Right-hander Matty Ott shut the door on Auburn in the ninth, striking out both batters he faced and earning his ninth save of the season.
Auburn starter Jon Luke Jacobs (3-3) was charged with the loss after allowing four runs on five hits and six walks in five innings pitched.
Game 2 of the series begins Saturday at 3 p.m. (CDT). The contest can be heard on the LSU Sports Radio Network (98.1 FM), and live audio and stats will be available in the Geaux Zone at www.LSUsports.net
LSU 7, Auburn 3 (Apr 24, 2009 at Baton Rouge, La.)
Auburn.............. 010 101 000 - 3 8 1 (25-17, 8-11 SEC)
LSU................... 100 202 11X - 7 11 1 (31-12, 12-7 SEC)
Pitchers: Auburn - Jon Luke Jacobs; Bradley Hendrix(6); Scott Shuman(7).
LSU - Anthony Ranaudo; Nolan Cain(9); Matty Ott(9).
Win-Anthony Ranaudo(5-2) Save-Matty Ott(9) Loss-Jon Luke Jacobs(3-3) T-3:06 A-9665
HR AU - Hunter Morris (11); Brian Fletcher (13); Casey McElroy (7).
Actual attendance: 6,327
Jacobs faced 1 batter in the 6th.