FINAL: LSU 8, USM 3
Tigers walk their way to victory in the Wally Pontiff, Jr. Classic
METAIRIE - It took until there were two outs in the bottom of the third inning for LSU to record a hit against Southern Mississippi on Wednesday night.
By that time, LSU (27-7) already had enough runs to win the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic at Zephyr Field.
Arby Fields spanked that single up the middle to score Tyler Hanover from second base. Hanover had reached on a walk earlier in the inning. The RBI single by Fields would be on only run scoring play of the game for the Tigers that didn’t result from a walk or hit batsman.
In the bottom of the first, 10 Tigers stepped up to the plate, six of them were issued walks by Golden Eagle pitching, and another was hit by a pitch. In the end, the Tigers had pushed across four runs without the benefit of a single base hit.
“I’m not going to make too big a deal about us not getting too many hits, because when a pitcher is so wild, it’s tough to get in there and be aggressive,” Mainieri said. “You don’t want to swing at bad pitches and give him an easy out in the inning. It makes you tentative at the plate.”
The four-spot by the Tigers came on the heels of a pair of runs pushed across by Southern Miss (19-13) against LSU starter Aaron Nola.
Connor Barron, the Golden Eagles’ leadoff hitter, cracked a single through the right side of the infield to open the contest. Ashley Graeter smashed a hot shot over at Hanover that looked like a potential double play ball before Hanover bobbled it allowing both runners to reach safely.
Kameron Brunty sacrificed the runners up 90 feet, and Blake Brown drove them in with a double over Mason Katz’ head in right centerfield.
Nola (4-1), working for the first time in 10 days due to shoulder discomfort, settled in after the double to retire the next two batters to avoid further damage.
“I thought Nola threw the ball really well,” Mainieri said. “I’m almost glad it happened that way because I thought his best fastballs were at the end of his 28 pitch performance. As he kept throwing I think his arm strength kind of built up a little bit.”
Nola then turned the game over to the Tiger bullpen which was fabulous. Seven Tiger relievers combined to throw eight innings of one-run ball.
Lefty Brent Bonvillain set the tone for the night with three dominating innings of work. He allowed just three hits, all of the infield variety, while striking out three.
Joey Bourgeois, Chris Cotton, Kevin Berry and Kurt McCune all tossed scoreless frames, Bourgeois and McCune striking out all three hitters they faced, before Cody Glenn and Nick Goody worked the ninth.
Glenn walked Joe Martin with one out in the ninth, and he came around to score on an Andrew Furr single up the middle off Goody to cut the lead to, 8-3, but by that time the game was decided.
The Tigers would add to their, 5-2, lead in the sixth, again with the aid of the Golden Eagle pitching staff.
Ty Ross opened the inning by drawing a walk, and Fields lined his second single of the night into center. Jared Foster’s bunt was misplayed by pitcher James McMahan to load the bases.
After JaCoby Jones took strike three, Southern Miss went to lefty Josh Rogers who couldn’t find the strike zone. He plunked Jordy Snikeris and walked Katz to force two runs home. Right hander Matt Warren came in to try his luck, and he drilled Austin Nola to make the score 8-2.
Fields’ two hits accounted for half of the Tigers’ total, Snikeris and Hanover combining for the other two.
“This is why I came here,” Fields said. “Everything doesn’t happen the way you planned, but that’s life. Coach told me to be patient, and when my opportunity came to take advantage of it.
“I’m not going to sit here and say it was the easiest thing in the world, but I made sure I prepared in practice every day.”
The Tigers return to practice Thursday before welcoming Alabama to Alex Box Stadium Friday for Game 1 of a three-game set.
Below is Hunt Palmer’s game blog.
We’re here in Metairie for the Wally Pontiff Jr Classic tonight between LSU and Southern Miss at Zephyr Field. Tonight should be a great baseball game, but more the focus is on the late Wally Pontiff Jr. who passed away 10 years ago in July, far too soon. Wally was an exceptional baseball player and, by all accounts, an even better person. Tonight’s game takes place where he spent the last night of his life, and there are already countless #31 shirts walking arounf the park. The Pontiff family remains a part of LSU baseball, and tonight is a chance to the program to give a little bit back. The Wally Pontiff Jr. Foundation helps to assist underprivilaged youth in New Orleans and around the state.
On the field, the Tigers welcome Aaron Nola back to the mound. The freshman right hander has been out since the Arkansas series with shoulder tightness. He’s only going to throw one inning tonight, and he should be ready for Sunday vs. Alabama.
A slew of relievers will follow Nola on the mound. I’ll have my eye on Cody Glenn, though. The freshman lefty has not been great this year, and his competition has been worse. It will be nice to see how he fares against a solid lineup like the Golden Eagles.
At the plate, LSU is still without Raph Rhymes who did not make the trip over. He’s still on the road back from a concussion. We’ll find out more about his status for the weekend when we talk to Mainieri tonight.
Southern Miss starter Taylor Nunez is a product of Salmen High School is Slidell. Also, Dillon Day, the centerfielder, is from Dutchtown.
Rain is in the forecast for tonight, but the tarp just came off the field. We’re set to begin at 7 pm, and the game is being televised by CST.
Southern Miss (19-12)
1. Connor Barron DH .300
2. Ashley Graeter SS .331
3. Kameron Brunty LF .308
4. Blake Brown 1B .278
5. Mason Robbins RF .367
6. Isaac Rodriguez 2B .297
7. Dillon Day CF .337
8. Travis Creel 3B .282
9. Chase Fowler C .277
SP- Taylor Nunez RHP (1-2, 2.18ERA, 20.2IP, 12H, 12H, 7R, 5ER, 7BB, 14K, OPP BA- .176)
1. JaCoby Jones 2B .273
2. Grant Dozar DH .296
3. Mason Katz RF .359
4. Austin Nola SS .311
5. Tyler Moore 1B .333
6. Tyler Hanover 3B .293
7. Ty Ross C .327
8. Arby Fields CF .172
9. Jared Foster LF .243
SP- Aaron Nola RHP (3-1, 3.18ERA, 39.2IP, 30H, 15R, 14ER, 4BB, 40K, OPP BA- .205)
Nola got ahead, but couldn’t put Connor Barron away. He singles to right to gets things going… Ashley Graeter hits a hot shot at Hanover who can’t handle it. E5. Runners at 1st and 2nd with no one out… USM bunts the 3 hole hitter (love that) and it’s succesful. Ross throws Kameron Brunty out at 1st. Both runners move up… With 2 strikes, Nola still struggling to find that out pitch. Blake Brown ropes a double to right center to score a pair… Fastball on the inside corner freezes Mason Robbins. 2 out… Isaac Rodriguez flies to center, and that’s all in the top of the first… NOLA IMPRESSIONS: He had the good life on his fastball, and the command was on point. His slider didn’t have that good bite. May have to work to get that feel back. He looked pain free and I’m guessing he’ll be in there on Sunday… USM 2, LSU 0
JaCoby Jones grounds to 2nd…. Dozar walks… After fouling off a number of pitches, Katz takes one off the back. 1st and 2nd with 1 out… Nola walks and they’re loaded… Ball four to Tyler Moore goes all the way to the screen. Katz scores and that’s all for Nunez. Pitching change coming… Cody Livingston is the new USM arm. He promptly throws four straight bad ones to Hanover. We’re tied… After his 7th straight pitch missed the zone, Livingston mixed in a strike. Just one, though, before he walked Ross to force home another run… Pitching change…..moving right along……New pitcher is righty James McMahon… Arby Fields pops to 1st. 2 out… Foster walks. Another run home… Jones fans. He was retired twice in the inning. LSU scores 4 without a hit… LSU 4, USM 2
Brent Bonvillain is the new LSU pitcher… Dillon Day leads off with a chopper over the mound. It’s an infield hit… Travis Creel drops down a bunt. Moore applies the tag. Day to 2nd. 1 out… Chase Fowler hits a one-hopper at Nola who goes to third to clip Day. Poor baserunning there by Day. 2 out. Fowler at 1st… Bonvillain gets Connor Barron swinging to retire the side… LSU 4, USM 2
Dozar pops to center. 1 out… Katz takes a called third on the inside corner. 2 out… Nola fans… LSU 4, USM 2
Ashley Graeter drops down a perfrect drag bunt to reach… Hit and run was on and Brunty didn’t make contact. Bad news for Graeter. He’s out by a few steps. 1 out… Brunty fans. Bonvillain has a great breaking ball tonight. 2 out… Blake Brown grounds to short. How about Bonvillain’s last two outings? Pretty solid… LSU 4, USM 2
Tyler Moore grounds to 2nd… Hanover walks… Hanover takes 2nd… Ross flies to center. That was the best contact LSU has made tonight. 2 out… Arby Fields snaps the USM no-hit bid. He singles to center and Hanover scores… Fields is pegged at 2nd to end the inning… LSU 5, USM 2
There’s the Bonvillain slider again. He gets Mason Robbins swinging. 1 out… Isaac Rodriguez grounds to the right side. Jones gloves it and hits Bonvillain covering but his foot was off the bag. Single… Dillon Day grounds into the easy 6-4-3 DP to retire the side. Mainieri may have something here with Cotton and Bonvillain from the left side… LSU 5, USM 2
Foster flies to right… JaCoby grounds to short, but the throw is wide of first. He’s aboard. E6… With Jones running, Dozar schorches one right at the 2nd baseman. Easy double play to end the inning… LSU 5, USM 2
Joey Bourgeois on in relief of Bonvillain who was great in 3 innings of work… Creel fans. 1 out… Chase Fowler takes a called third. 2 out… Connor Barron fans. Bourgeois strikes out the side… LSU 5, USM 2
Katz takes a called 3rd. 1 out… Nola pops to center. 2 out… Tyler Moore’s swinging bunt is fielded by the pitcher who plunks him with the throw. E1. Moore on at 1st… Hanover flies to right. No other way to say it other than the LSU bats have been poor tonight. Much of the same from last night… LSU 5, USM 2
Chris Cotton on for LSU… Ashley Graeber taps back to the mound. 1 out… Kameron Brunty flies to right. 2 out… Blake Brown cracks a 2-out double over Arby Fields’ head… Mason Robbins rolls to 2nd. Jones’ throw is just in time to get him and retire the side… LSU 5, USM 2
Ty Ross walks… Arby Fields slaps a single to center. He’s got both LSU hits tonight… Jared Foster bunt was just poor enough that the pitcher McMahon tried to go to 3rd and he bobbled the ball. Everyone is safe. Bases loaded with no one out… JaCoby Jones takes a called 3rd. Since I wrote the feature story on him, he’s 0-for-9. 1 out… USM will make a pitching change. Luke Lowery, the lefty, will come on… Hitting for Dozar, Jordy Snikeris is plunked on the left foot. Run scores… Katz walks to force in a run. Another pitching change coming, I’ve never seen anything like this… New pitcher is Matt Warren… Warren plunks Nola. This is the twilight zone… Tyler Moore grounds into a 6-4-3 double play. That ends the 6th… LSU 8, USM 2
Kevin Berry on for LSU… Isaac Rodriguez flies to right. 1 out… Dillon Day yanks a single into right… Travis Creel fans. 2 out… Pass Ball. Day to 2nd… Austin Roussel, a pinch hitter, walks… Another pinch hitter, Ryan Ellis, flies to center. Golden Eagles strand a pair… LSU 8, USM 2
Jay Myrick is on to pitch for USM… Tyler Hanover greets him with a single to left… Ross bounces to the left side. Sensational play by the shortstop to backhand it and force Hanover at 2nd. 1 out… Ross moves to second on a wild pitch… Fields walks… Foster lines back to the mound and Fields is doubled off… We’ve played 7… LSU 8, USM 2
Kurt McCune to the mound… Ashley Graeber takes a called third. Fastball. Inside corner. 1 out… Kameron Brunty fouls one back into Ross’ mitt. 2 out… McCune matches Bourgeois by striking out the side. He gets Blake Brown looking… LSU 8, USM 2
Cameron Giannini is the 13th pitcher of the ballgame… Casey Yocom fans. He pinch hit for JaCoby Jones… Snikeris reaches on an infield single to the left side… Katz taps to the left side. They force Snikeris at second. He just stopped like they were going to tag him even though they weren’t. Weird play. 2 out. Katz at 1st… Katz moves to 2nd on a wild pitch… Nola grounds to short. We head to the 9th… LSU 8, USM 2
Cody Glenn is the 6th RP of the game… Michael Sterling grounds back to Glenn. 1 out… Joe Martin walks and Mainieri will call for Nick Goody… Wild pitch moves Martin to 2nd… Bradley Roney is the second out. It’s a backwards K… Andrew Furr singles Martin home… Andrew Roussel grounds back to Goody who makes a nice play to throw him out.
FINAL: LSU 8, USM 3