LSU opened up conference play with a 4-2 victory over Mizzou Friday night.
LSU built their lead on early gifts from Mizzou pitcher Bryce Montes De Oca after he walked the bases full to start the game, but failed to capitalize on many of the chances that came their way after the fact. LSU went a woeful 1-10 with RISP on the night and it took until the bottom of the eighth for LSU’s first hit with a runner in position to come through.
“We just had so many chances to break the game open,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “We had 16 baserunners and ended up with four runs. We have got to be better than that. When we have opportunities, we need to be able to take advantage of it.”
Up until the 7th inning, when he lost control, Zack Hess shined bright for LSU and kept Mizzou at bay while the Tigers floundered at the plate with runners in scoring position. Hess pitched six innings where he allowed two runs (both earned) on three hits and five walks (three of which came in the seventh inning when he hit that wall) while striking out eight of the 26 batters he faced.
“Even though he faltered there in the 7th by walking three straight guys, I thought the kid was magnificent,” Mainieri said. “I think he’s proved that he’s a Friday night starter in the SEC.”
LSU capitalized on gifts given to them from Missouri when pitcher Bryce Montes De Oca issued five walks in the bottom of the first, including three straight without a strike to start the inning. With the bases loaded, Austin Bain scored Zach Watson by grounding into a fielder’s choice. Hunter Feduccia walked to load the bases once more, and Chris Reid’s two out walk set the carousel in motion, scoring Brandt Broussard.
Beau Jordan added a run in the third inning with a no-doubter to left field. His mondo blast not only cleared the Left Field Landing but left the park entirely, disappearing into the Baton Rouge night and possibly landing somewhere between the U-High field and Football Ops. Okay, maybe not that far, but the ball definitely went past the gate on the other side of the bleachers.
Hess hit a wall in the 7th inning when he, like Montes De Oca in the first, walked three straight batters to start the inning. Mizzou couldn’t get a base hit to make it hurt for LSU, but a sacrifice fly from Zach Hanna and a groundout on a slow chopper from Trey Harris were enough to plate two runs and cut LSU’s lead to one.
“I was missing some pitches just off the plate,” Hess said. “I felt they could have gone either way but he though they were balls so I have to be better than that. Gotta give credit for Nick Bush and coming in to bail me out of that situation.”
“As long as we got the win, that’s all that matters.”
LSU added a much needed insurance run in the bottom of the 8th following Chris Reid’s leadoff single. Cabrera walked to move the Professional Hitter into scoring position where he would score on Zach Watson’s double that hugged the left field foul line.
“One run makes a huge difference,” Watson said. “That makes them think that they need to get three runs instead of two. It’s a big relief to have that hit and run.”
Austin Bain came in for the 9th inning and closed out the game almost without a hiccup. Antoine Dupantis nearly made a diving play for the first out of the inning, but Mainieri declined to take a look at it in replay because he thought it would take Bain out of rhythm. His decision to spurn the challenge paid off for him as Bain struck out the next two batters and retired the side for his second save on the season.
“All in all it was a good win,” Mainieri said. “I didn’t think we played poorly at all, I just think we need to take advantage of our opportunities and get those runs in when we have a chance.”