A week ago, Jaden Hill struggled mightily against Oral Roberts, failing to make it out of the first inning in a blowout loss.
Tonight Hill had a rebound game for the ages, leading LSU to a 3-1 victory over UTSA throwing 6.2 scoreless innings with only four hits and two walks allowed while striking out six. Of Hill’s 96 pitchers, 56 were for strikes.
“I changed my preparation a little bit,” Hill said. “There was some things I needed to focus on, like adding a third pitch and being consistent with it throughout the entire game. So I manipulated a few pitch grips, something that felt comfortable with me and I was able to execute it today.”
“It was a big step forward for him,” LSU (12-3) head coach Paul Mainieri said. “Very proud of that young man.”
It was the deepest Hill has ever worked into a game, but he felt like he could have gone even deeper with SEC conference play looming in the distance.
“I didn’t want to come out,” Hill said. “I wanted to finish (the seventh) inning.”
The first run of the game didn’t come until the sixth inning when Cade Doughty launched a leadoff home run to left field.
“In the first inning I got a lot of curveballs and unfortunately didn’t get the job done for my team with a runner on third base less than two outs,” Doughty said. “So I got the sense they were going to keep working breaking balls early in the count. I was able to recognize a pitch pretty early and got a good swing off it and it ended up going over.”
But LSU couldn’t hold onto the lead, as Devin Fontenot continued to scuffle on the mound, issuing a walk and a single in the eighth inning. Ma’Khail Hilliard came in to put out the fire and induced a ground ball, but an error allowed the run to score and tie the game.
But the Tigers came roaring back in the bottom half of the inning after Dylan Crews hit a leadoff single and Tre Morgan reached after getting hit by a pitch. Crews was out on a fielder’s choice, but a throwing error on the throw to first allowed Morgan and Doughty to reach second and third with one out.
Gavin Dugas then hit into a would-be inning ending double play, but managed to just barely beat the throw by inches to avoid the out and score two runs to give LSU a 3-1 lead.
“I knew I hit it hard, so I knew there was very little time to get to first base,” Dugas said. “So I was just trying to get there as soon as possible. I was pretty confident that I did beat the throw, but that little doubt creeps if they would overturn it, kind of makes your heart drop. But I knew I beat the throw, and seeing them give the safe call was a big joy.”
“We have a saying, ‘luck is the residue of design,’” Mainieri said. “Had he struck out, nothing good would have happened there but he put that ball in play, hustled to first base and was able to beat the play out.”
Despite scoring three runs, LSU only recorded four hits, an unusually low number for the Tigers. LSU hit plenty of balls hard, but it was one of those tough luck nights at the plate where they just seemed to find leather.
“We had a lot of quality at-bats early in the game,” Doughty said. “We had a lot of barrels that just didn’t find holes for us. Hopefully tomorrow we can string some more together and keep the barrel on the ball.”
LSU will go for the series victory tomorrow when the Tigers and Roadrunners (5-4) tangle for game two at 7:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast on traditional cable on the SEC Network.