It was a happy Valentine’s Day for LSU baseball fans as the Tigers opened the 2020 season with 8-1 win over Indiana.
Cole Henry started on the mound, going four innings for the Tigers, allowing three hits and no runs with eight strikeouts. Coach Paul Mainieri said that Henry set to tone for the Tigers by dominating on the mound.
“The way he threw tonight was like a Friday night starter in the SEC has to throw to give you a chance to win,” Mainieri said.
Mainieri pulled Henry at 71 pitches, something he decided prior to the game. Henry tried to stop him, but Mainieri was definite.
“Coach wouldn’t let me stay in there,” Henry said. “He was like ‘you need to stop getting so many hitters in 3-2 counts then.’ I was like ‘Yeah, that’s true.’ I knew I had a pitch count going into the game, so I kind of expected it.”
A trio of pitchers finished off the game for LSU. Brandon Kaminer — the first lefty to pitch for LSU since 2018 — came in relief for Henry, pitching 1.2 innings with one walk, no hits and an unearned run.
Matt Beck pitched two full innings with no hits, one walk and two strikeouts. The final pitcher, Aaron George, pitched the remaining 1.1 innings with no hits and two strikeouts.
LSU quickly took an early lead that it never relinquished and only added onto throughout the game.
Left fielder Daniel Cabrera, third baseman Zach Mathis and first baseman Cade Beloso all led the Tigers with two hits each on the night. Mainieri said he felt the team had good at-bats overall, despite more strikeouts than he would’ve liked.
Cabrera — sporting his new No. 8 — got the Tigers’ first hit of the season with a single through the left side. Freshman infielder Cade Doughty followed suit with a home run in his first career at-bat to put LSU up 2-0.
Doughty is the first LSU player to hit a home run in his first career at-bat since Beau Didier in 2009. Doughty said the pitcher Tommy Sommer hung a changeup in a 1-1 count and he put a good swing on it.
“I was just as surprised as you guys,” Doughty said. “I kind of went numb, it was a crazy moment.
“Growing up being an LSU fan, you kind of dream of moments like this. When I rounded first base and realized the ball went over, I don’t know what I actually did. It was kind of a scream.”
Doughty walked in his second at-bat, before Zach Mathis got his first career hit, a single to right field. Catcher Saul Garza cleared the bases with a home run over the right field wall to put LSU up 5-0.
Garza said he didn’t even think the ball was going out because of the wind.
Kaminer had a fielding error and a walk when facing his first two batters and Indiana scored on an RBI groundout in the top of the fifth before the Tigers forced two more groundouts to get out of the inning, still leading 5-1.
LSU added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth. Indiana pitcher Nathan Stahl issued two walks — to Drew Bianco and Hal Hughes — in the first three batters before an error-filled sequences brought Drew Bianco from second to home on a Cabrera fly ball. Hal Hughes then scored on a sacrifice fly by Zach Mathis.
LSU added one more in the bottom of the 8th when Mathis hit an RBI single to shallow left field to score the runner from second.
“I thought we played a really fantastic game,” Mainieri said. “I thought our bullpen was really outstanding. What a super way to start the season. If we had lost the game, I would say the same thing. We have 55 more and two big ones tomorrow. We’ll be proud of ourselves, but we’ve got to keep working to get better.”