By Trey Mongrue
Trailing by a run in the bottom of the seventh inning last Sunday against Georgia, LSU sophomore Alex Bregman stepped to the plate with Kramer Robertson – the potential tying run – on second base and nobody out.
Facing Georgia relief pitcher David Sosebee, Bregman was ordered by Paul Mainieri to bunt Robertson over to third, but after watching two pitches miss for balls, he was given the green light to swing. Bregman turned on a belt-high fastball from Sosebee and ripped a single into right field, bringing home Robertson who was running on the pitch.
After reaching first base, a fist-pumping Bregman turned to the LSU dugout and let out a ferocious roar. In part, it was a leader trying to pump up his teammates in the midst of a close game, but it was also a cathartic release for Bregman who had been experiencing some recent struggles at the plate.
“Any time you get a hit, it’s nice and especially in a clutch situation,” said Bregman. “I just want to try and build off of that and put together more at bats to help this team win more games.”
Unfortunately, Bregman’s 15th RBI of the season would be the last run scored in Sunday’s game as Georgia’s travel restrictions forced the game to end in a 2-2 tie after 13 innings. But in the long run, LSU’s first baseball stalemate since 2008 may turn into an even bigger win if it means that its star shortstop’s bat is starting to heat back up.
If the Tigers have any aspirations of doing any damage in the Southeastern Conference, Mainieri knows that is exactly what he needs.
“It’s going to be hard for us to win a lot of SEC games if Alex Bregman doesn’t hit,” said the eighth-year LSU coach. “Hopefully he gets it going.”
Just three weeks ago, there was no reason to even foresee this slump coming from Bregman. Through the Tigers first 18 games of the season, he was one of three LSU hitters to have a batting average north of .400 while also leading the team with 14 RBI.
But things took a turn for the worse when LSU opened SEC play by traveling to Vanderbilt. In the three games there, Bregman registered just one hit in his 12 at bats. With the Tigers’ most potent hitter not producing, the Commodores took the series.
A trip back to Baton Rouge did not seem to help much as Bregman tallied just two more hits in the next three games and saw his batting average dip from .413 to .337.
“I know that there is a lot of stuff that I need to do better at the plate,” he said. “Baseball is a tough sport in that there is more failure than success in this game. I have to learn to overcome it and keep fighting.”
“Baseball is a tough sport in that there is more failure than success in this game.”
The dip in form forced Mainieri’s hand heading into Sunday’s game as he moved Bregman out of the third spot in the batting order – a role that Bregman had hit from in every prior game during his LSU career and the spot in the lineup that usually has the most opportunities to knock home runners in scoring position.
Unfazed, Bregman came to Alex Box Stadium that morning and followed his exact same routine and the result was his first clutch at-bat in two weeks. Going forward, he plans on keeping that same approach whether he is hitting .400 or not hitting at all.
“I’m still the same Alex Bregman that I’ve always have been,” he said. “I still come to the field with the same smile and ready to get after it.”
As Bregman and the Tigers hit the road to take on Florida this weekend, they are in a bit of a precarious situation. In addition to Bregman’s woes, the team as a whole is finding it hard to put the ball in play and push runs across. As a team, LSU is hitting just .281 and has only scored 14 runs in its last 49 innings of SEC play.
On top of that, the tie to Georgia makes it paramount for LSU to win a road series if it wants to get back on track in an SEC West race that looks like it will be competitive as ever.
“I feel like we have a lot that we can still get better at,” Bregman explained. “We see some good stuff out of us with everybody competing and playing their butts off, but we still have a lot of work to do and we’ll be sure to do it.”