BATON ROUGE, La. -- LSU's relievers fired 5.1 scoreless innings Friday night as the top-ranked Tigers defeated No. 21 Missouri, 8-3, in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field to capture Game 1 of the Southeastern Conference series.
LSU improves to 41-8 on the season and 17-7 in conference play while Missouri falls to 28-22 overall and 14-11 in the SEC. LSU is in first place in the overall SEC standings, percentage points ahead of SEC Eastern Division leader Vanderbilt (18-8). LSU has a one-game lead over Texas A&M (16-8) in the SEC Western Division.
Freshman right-handed reliever Doug Norman (4-1) earned the win after entering for starter Jared Poche' in the fourth inning. Poche' worked 3.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on seven hits with three strikeouts. Norman threw 2.1 hitless innings, walking one and striking out one.
Starter Reggie McClain (6-6) suffered the loss for Missouri after pitching three innings, giving up five earned runs on five hits and walking three with two strikeouts.
LSU's bullpen - Norman, right-hander Jake Godfrey and right-hander Alden Cartwright - combined for 5.1 innings, giving up no runs on three hits, walking two with six strikeouts.
Game 2 of the LSU-Missouri series is set for a 7:30 p.m. CT start on Saturday in Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. It will also be broadcast live on LSU Radio Network affiliates, including 98.1 FM in Baton Rouge. Fans can also go to LSUsports.net for live stats and audio through the GeauxZone.
"We faced an early deficit again tonight, but I was proud of the way our players stuck together and battled back," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "Their starting pitcher (McClain) had a tremendous change-up, and I thought we were chasing a lot of pitches out of the zone early. (LSU second baseman) Danny Zardon's home run in the third inning was our first hit of the game, and it gave our team the confidence that we could hit their pitcher.
"I really like the way Doug Norman has emerged as someone we can rely upon out of the bullpen. He's an extremely confident pitcher, and he displays a lot of poise on the mound. I thought he was outstanding for us tonight."
In the top of the third inning, Missouri designated hitter Shane Benes led off with a double to left field. After second baseman Brett Peel hit an infield single to second base, Benes scored on a sacrifice fly from centerfielder Jake Ring. Peel scored on a double by shortstop Ryan Howard to bring the score to 2-0 Missouri heading to the bottom of the third.
With one out in the bottom of the third, Zardon hit a solo shot to the left field bleachers to cut the Missouri lead in half. After McClain walked two consecutive batters, the runners advanced to scoring position on a failed pickoff attempt, and shortstop Alex Bregman singled through the right side to score centerfielder Andrew Stevenson from third. Third baseman Conner Hale and catcher Kade Scivique also had RBI singles to extend the LSU lead to 4-2 after three innings.
Missouri added a run in the top of the fourth when right fielder Trey Harris scored on Benes' single to left after Harris led off the inning with a double down the left field line.
LSU first baseman Chris Chinea lead off the bottom of the fourth with a ground-rule double and scored when designated hitter Chris Sciambra drilled a single to right field. With one out and Sciambra on third, right fielder Mark Laird hit an RBI groundout to the pitcher. After four innings, LSU had a 6-3 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Scivicque dropped a RBI single to left field, scoring Hale, who had led off with an infield single to shortstop and advanced to second on a wild pitch by Missouri reliever Andrew Schwaab.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, Laird doubled to left field and scored on Bregman's single through the left side, bringing the score to 8-3 in favor of LSU.