Just like last Saturday when LSU held on to beat Youngstown State before blowing out Nicholls State, the Tigers won both games of Wednesday’s doubleheader in different ways, walking off Nicholls 5-4 and then hammering four home runs in a 16-1 victory over Southern.
LSU (8-1) found itself trailing Nicholls State early in game one, and despite taking the lead in the fifth inning could never pull away, allowing two runs in the eighth and ninth inning to tie the game.
But the Tigers were able to load the bases in the ninth inning, winning on a sacrifice fly from Tre Morgan to score Zach Arnold and give LSU a 5-4 victory.
The game got off to a shaky start for LSU when Javen Coleman had to be pulled after 1.2 innings where he allowed two earned runs off two hits and three walks. Two of those walks came back to back in the second inning and both came around to score on a double from Parker Coddou.
Freshman Blake Money answered the call to put out the fire was able to effectively quell the Colonel’s bats to allow the Tiger offense back into the game. Money pitched 4.1 scoreless innings where he issued no walks and only gave up a pair of hits while striking out four.
“I just wanted to make sure I did the best I could to keep my team in the game,” Money said. “I wanted to give them an opportunity to come back like they did. I have a lot of faith in my guys, I just wanted to make sure I kept it close and gave my guys an opportunity.”
Brody Drost, another freshman, put LSU on the board with a leadoff home run to right field in the fourth inning, which Cade Beloso and Gavin Dugas followed with back to back doubles to tie the game. The following inning freshman phenom Dylan Crews put LSU ahead with a mammoth 418-foot home run over the left centerfield wall.
Nicholls (2-5) tied to game momentarily in the eighth inning when former Tiger Wes Toups drew a leadoff walk and then came around to score on a Basiel Williams single after being sacrificed into scoring position. LSU regained the lead in the bottom half of the inning when Tre Morgan led off the inning with a double and advanced to third on a throwing error, then scoring on a sac fly from Drost.
However the Colonels would once again come storming back to tie the game in the top of the ninth. A leadoff single from Xane Washington would score on a single from Coddou in shallow left center, tying the game up at 4-4.
But once again LSU would respond, loading the bases with one out after a single from Arnold and back to back walks to Hayden Travinski and Crews, which would set up Morgan for his game-winning sac fly to left field.
Money, Drost, Crews, and Morgan. All four were freshman who were not only counted on in a tough game, but were able to come through in the clutch when they needed to and some have emerged as more than just freshman early in their inaugural season. They are key contributors.
“We have a special group of freshman,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “It’s one thing to have talent and do spectacular things. It’s another to do them when it really matters. These are things I always look for a coach: what do you do when you get two strikes on your, what do you in a clutch situation? That’s how you decide which kids you want to hitch your wagon to. And those are the decisions I’ve made for 39 years. Which kids are you going to choose to believe in and put your career and your team’s destiny on the line with. And in my opinion, Morgan, Crews, Drost, those are special kids and I believe in them. And I believe they’re gonna lead us to the promised land.”
All nine batters in the LSU lineup got a plate appearance in the first inning of game two against Southern, as LSU set the tone early with three runs off one hit. The Tigers scored three more in the second, one in the fourth and fifth, and six in the sixth, including two home runs from Crews and Jordan Thompson. LSU tacked on two runs in the eighth innings to stretch their lead to 16-1.
The Tigers hit four home runs against Southern, with Zach Arnold and Tre’ Morgan joining in on the fun.
“We’re getting out hacks in, every single day,” Crews said. “We want to be ready from the first pitch to the last. And this team is coming together too. It’s just all coming along together.”
Combined with the two home runs from the Nicholls State game the Tigers hit six home runs Wednesday, running their total to 21 home runs on the still-young season. That’s good enough to make them the current NCAA leader in home runs.
“I knew there was potential there,” Mainieri said. “We have some special freshman and a great hitting coach, Eddie Smith. He works so hard with these guys every day. He along with myself have always preached an aggressive approach and attacking the ball by generating bat speed. I think the kids work so hard and Eddie works so hard with them that you’re just seeing the fruits of their labor really.”
“I like where we’re at.”
In addition to the offensive explosion the Tigers also got a solid start out of freshman Will Helmers, who turned in five scoreless innings where he allowed no walks and just two hits while striking out six.
“Everything seemed to be working,” Hellmers said. “I had great location with my fastballs, they were going where I wanted them to go, the curveballs were dropping in there for strikes in the beginning of counts to some of their better hitters, and my changeup got a few guys to roll over tonight. So I think everything was going where I wanted it do and doing what I wanted it to.”
“That’s exactly what we needed and expected out of him,” Mainieri said. “He set the tone early.”
Ty Floyd and Jacob Hasty followed Hellmers with a combined two innings where they allowed no runs on one single with no walks and three strikeouts.
The Jaguars (6-1) were able to get a run across in the eighth inning when they strung together four straight singles against Brandon Kaminer.