LSU’s question mark at starting pitching was saved Friday night in the season opener, but depending on Friday night heroics to bail out trouble wont get you very far, as the Tigers found out in a 10-5 loss to Notre Dame in game two. Zach Hess’ 2018 premier leaves a lot of questions about his change of roles and LSU’s weekend plans going forward
Hess struggled to find his control from the get go, giving up 3 walks around a strikeout in the 1st inning, and allowing ND DH Niko Kavadas to knock in a run on a ground ball to 1st. The Tigers responded in the bottom of the 2nd with a pretty solo shot over the left wall by Beau Jordan, his first home run of the year.
The Irish really blew it open in the third inning. Single, Walk, Walk, setup an RBI single, a “passed ball” RBI (shoulda been a wild pitch), and a two-run home run bomb to left by Irish right fielder Eric Gilgenbach. It being the top of the third, it took some time to get the pen warm, so the damage continued. Hess surrendered another double, induced a pop up, and gave up his sixth walk of the night before Vietmeier was ready to relieve him. Notre Dame got two more on the board with a sac fly and an RBI single before LSU could escape the half inning, down 8-1.
Freshman rightie Vietmeier showed some power and was able to stomp down Notre Dame’s offense while the Tigers attempted to mount a comeback. In the fifth, Duplantis took a lead off HBP, followed by a Watson single to left. Nic Coomes then lined into right to score 1. Beau Jordan took a walk, then Freshman Brandt Broussard sent the first hit of his career into deep center for a two-RBI double. Very quickly, the Tigers got halfway back, now trailing 8-4 after four.
Broussard would get another for LSU in the 6th inning. After lead off walks by Coomes and Jordan led to a ND pitching change, Broussard hit a sac fly deep into the right field corner to score one more. However, the comeback ended there, as the Tigers would get only one hit and one walk in the final three frames.
Vietmeier kept the Irish silent for 3 2/3 IP, giving up only 2 hits and striking out 4, before giving way to freshman Ma’Khail Hilliard. Hilliard had a pretty impressive curveball that managed to fool a couple of the Irish. He also showed some great athleticism catching a quick pop-up bunt attempt right in front of the mound. Hilliard went two innings and gave up three hits with one walk and no runs in his debut. Devin Fontenot took over in the ninth and Notre Dame worked a couple of ground balls to score two more runs and nail down some insurance for the 10-5 final.
It’s disappointing that Hess wasn’t able to pickup right where he left off last season, but you don’t want to take too much out of an opening weekend performance. There’s also the worry that moving to a starting pitching role wont work out. Hess showed he still has the velocity, but control is almost more important for a starter. The LSU bullpen will be taxed plenty this season, and not making it out of the third wont be doing them any favors. We’ll have to see if Hess can rebound next weekend against...gulp....Texas.