What a fine way to start the season. Gorgeous weather, giant crowds, veterans in mid-season form and rookies making great 1st impressions. It could hardly have gone better for LSU this opening weekend.
In a way over-packed Box, our only veteran starting pitcher RHP Ben Alsup started a season of Friday starts by immediately loading the bases. After Mainieri went out to calm his nerves, Alsup settled down and kept Wake off the board until the 5th. Meanwhile, the LSU bats played like they were swinging aluminium, getting 6 runs in the 1st and 6 in the 2nd by using timely hitting to single and double their way around the bases (with a nice single shot homer by CF Mikie Mahtook, more on that below). Realistically, the game was well in hand by the 3rd, with substitutions coming in the 5th. Middle relief RHP Nick Rumbelow had a rocky outing with a 9.00 ERA with 3 runs on 2 hits, but with no pressure he calmed down to eventually get 2 Ks in the 8th before giving way to RHP Kevin Berry who blanked the 9th. The bats added a second single shot HR by Mahtook and a few RBIs to reach the 15-4 final.
Saturday saw the first new starter on the mound, RHP Kevin Gausman. He came into the year with a lot of hype as the pitcher who didn't sign with the Dodgers. He impressed immediately, his fast ball hitting 98 MPH in the first few batters and drawing Ben McDonald comparisons from the radio booth as far as his potential. It wasn't a perfect start however, as that famous fastball didn't have a lot of movement and Wake took advantage early, building to a 2-0 lead in the 2nd. Gausman settled down quickly, retiring nine in a row and getting 6 Ks before being sat down in the middle of the 6th, still hitting 96 MPH on the gun.
With a choice to make about the Sunday starter, Mainieri went with Fr. RHP Ryan Eades for middle relief. Eades had a decent performance allowing 3 hits and a run through 2 and 1/3 innings, but it was a relatively quiet night for the LSU bats, gaining only a 4-2 lead going into the final inning. When Eades gave up a homer to start the 9th and put the tying run on, Mainieri decided it was time to win this thing. Matty Ott came in and got 2Ks and a ground out to seal his first save of the season and 28th of his career, one shy of tying the LSU career record. Ott looked to be his old self, feeding off the crowd energy to get that last K and the 4-3 final.
With the series locked up and Tyler Jones still in the suspension dog house, Mainieri went with Fr. RHP Kurt McCune on Sunday and got what turned out to be the biggest surprise of the weekend. McCune absolutely dominated Wake from the get go, striking out the side in the 1st and holding onto a no-hitter into the 6th (when Hanagriff casually mentioned on air that it didn't matter because McCune was on a pitch count, a single followed immediately.) It was another no pressure game as well, as the bats decided to take care of things the old fashioned way. 3-run bombs by Mahtook and RF Mason Katz led to a 9-0 lead before McCune was sat after 6 innings with 7Ks. Jimmy Dykstra and later Chris Cotton turned in great performances as well, making for a combined 13Ks for the pitching staff in a 9-1 win.
What to say about Wake? They looked exactly like we thought they might, a lower-to-mid tier ACC team in the middle of a rebuild. They played very well in game 2 and it was a genuine save for Ott to shut them down at the last opportunity with the tying run on 3rd. We'll keep an eye on them with the expectation they make some noise in the ACC this year.
NOTES OF INTEREST
- Hanover was not effected by the 3rd base VOID curse at all, having a mistake free weekend in the field and a team-leading .667 BA at the plate.
- The same could not be said for his understudy Matt Fury, who blanked at the plate, had an error, and the worst fielding percentage on the team in admittedly very brief relief duty on Friday and Sunday
- Maybe the curse just moved down the basepath. How else do you explain All-World SS Austin Nola having a team leading 2 errors on the weekend. To be fair, he had a decent weekend at the plate.
- Either he's platooning the battery, or he just hasn't settled on a starter, but Mainieri tested the waters at C starting Ty Ross, Jordy Snikeris, then Ross again to nearly identical performances. They were both good behind the plate (though i'd give the edge to Ross for a well done strike'em out throw'em out DP) and both blanked at the plate
- Mainieri also swapped position starts for LF Trey Watkins and DH Raph Rhymes on Sunday, as well as swaping Alex Edward for Grant Dozar at 1B. Watkins was a hair better on D than Rhymes, but was still trying to get his swing back and his time at DH paid dividends. The Edward - Dozar swap feels like a demotion thanks to a less than perfect weekend at 1B and a horrible time at the plate for Edward. Is it permanent? Only The Base Whisperer knows...
- Spencer Ware i.e. DREADS OF DOOM PART DEAUX, had an excellent showing in 2 outfield relief appearances, getting a RBI in his 1st at bat. He is also doing his best Kelvin Sheppard impersonation in leading the final pregame huddle .
- 10,055 actual attendance on Friday night after selling 12K+ for the opener is the new record and standard of college baseball. Even on Sunday, butts in the seats didn't drop below 7K. We've had more people see a game in the opening weekend than some teams will see all season. We could have more than some conferences see by the time SEC play starts.
- As pointed out in the Gamethread, I had forgotten we switched to Nike for uniforms this year. A quick glance at the game photos shows no visual changes, though the purple ones from Sunday betray the type of cut Nike likes to do. It couldn't have been pulled off better. The latest in uniform technology under a classic style that has worked well for a few years. Lets just hope the didn't experiment on the road jerseys (nightmare flashbacks of the Laval years...)
MAHTOOK INTENTIONAL WALK COUNTER: 1
BBCOR ERA HR COUNT: 6
OTT CAREER SAVES: 28 (RECORD 29 Rick Greene (1990-92))
NEXT GAME: Tues. 6:30 v. UNO (No TV)
OTHER ACTION OF NOTE
- Future opponent #9 CS Fullerton goes 1-2 on the weekend dropping an 11 inning 4-3 game to #29 UNC and breaking a 9 game win streak against Long Beach State, all at home.
- Auburn dropped a 13-2 blowout against #13 UVA at home, UGA got swept by Stetson, UK dropped all 3 at a tournament in Charleston, and Tenn dropped one to UW-Millwaukee. No other losses in the SEC.
- James Madison is also laughing at the BBCOR bats and has 91 runs on 77 hits and 23 HR in it's season opening sweep of Bucknell.
v. Wake Forest Game 1 Highlights
v. Wake Forest Game 2 Highlights
v. Wake Forest Game 3 Highlights