FINAL: LSU 1, Maryland 0
Tigers scratch out a low-scoring season-opening victory
Athletes always dream of a second chance.
Taking full advantage of that second chance is what South Louisianans would call lagniappe.
Friday night in No. 10 LSU’s 1-0 season-opening victory over Maryland, Tiger centerfielder Chris Sciambra took advantage of his second chance and then some in front of 9,746 fans in Alex Box Stadium.
His last appearance in purple and gold ended in catastrophe as he broke his neck March 25, 2012 at Auburn, and his career was in jeopardy.
After months of rehab, Sciambra returned for fall ball and earned the starting spot in centerfield for Opening Night.
He did not disappoint.
The Baton Rouge native went 4-for-4 and scored the only run of the contest.
“It was amazing,” he said. “The fans were great tonight. I was just feeding off of their energy. It was really a blessing to be back out here able to play again. It was a good game, and I think that can put to rest any questions about last year. I’m good to go and ready to help this team get to Omaha.”
Amazingly, three of Sciambra’s four hits came with two strikes - as did freshman Alex Bregman’s RBI single that drove him in.
“[Bregman] just doesn’t strike out,” Mainieri said, commending him for only striking out twice in fall ball and spring practices combined. “If he goes down two strikes, don’t ever give up on him, because he’s going to battle you right to the end.”
The Tigers may have scored just one run, but they made nine hits and struck out just four times. Three of those four K’s came from senior first baseman Mason Katz. Add grounding into a double play, and LSU’s team leader had an 0-for-4 night to forget.
On the positive side, senior left fielder Raph Rhymes joined Sciambra in the multi-hit category with a 2-for-4 game.
“A lot of people are going to say we didn’t hit well, but I thought we hit well,” Mainieri explained. “We had nine hits. These are tough conditions when the wind is blowing in like it is, and it was very chilly out there. I thought we hit the ball hard. We had bad luck where we hit into double plays when we hit the ball hard.”
The Terrapins, on the other hand, mustered just four hits, and if Catholic High grad Sciambra was LSU’s hero at the plate, fellow former Bear was the Tigers’ hero on the mound.
Starting pitcher Aaron Nola threw 6.2 masterful innings. He gave up no runs, two hits and one walk while striking out nine on 84 pitches.
“He was absolutely fantastic,” Mainieri touted. “I think he showed that he is clearly one of the best pitchers in our league if not in the country.”
Nola then turned the ball over to Joey Bourgeois, who got the last out of the seventh ad the first two of the eighth. He was flawless except for a curveball getting away from him and hitting a batter. Then Chris Cotton got the final four outs of the game despite allowing a pair of bad luck infield hits in the ninth.
After throwing just 17 pitches, Cotton is very available for the rest of the weekend. However, Kurt McCune suffered back spasms Friday and likely won’t be available Saturday. That could throw a wrench in LSU’s plans and keep Cotton in the closer’s role and bump Brent Bonvillain into a Sunday start instead. Stay tuned.
“I threw a lot of changeups which doesn’t affect the arm as much as throwing a slider or the fastball,” Cotton explained. “If he calls on me to go in Sunday, if he wants me to do something else, maybe close on Sunday, whatever he says I’ll be prepared to do.”
Game Two between LSU and Maryland is tomorrow at 1 p.m. Ryan Eades gets the go versus righty Brady Kirkpatrick.
LSUL 1 run, 9 hits, 0 errors
UM: 0 runs, 4 hits, 0 errors
Below is Richard Fischer’s game blog in chronological order.
Good evening and welcome to Alex Box Stadium for Opening Night.
All the anticipation and build-up for the 2013 season comes to a head tonight as the Maryland Terrapins are in town for a three-game set beginning at 7 p.m.
Aaron Nola has been given the honors of being LSU’s Opening Night starting pitcher, but he won’t even be the first Nola to throw a pitch tonight. That’s because his older brother and four-year starter Austin will deliver the ceremonial first pitch to fellow departed infielder Tyler Hanover minutes before the younger Nola takes the hill.
And when the actual first pitch comes, No. 10 LSU should feel good about it being a strike. As a freshman in 2012, Nola led the SEC in fewest walks allowed (seven) and most batters struck out looking (40). He posted a 7-4 record with a 3.61 ERA and really got better as the season progressed. He’s gained weight as a sophomore and really appears poised to take the next big step.
At the plate, LSU has the rare pleasure of bringing back the SEC’s leading returning home run hitter Mason Katz (13) as well as the nation’s leading hitter Raph Rhymes (.431) in 2012. They’ll be joined in the heart of the order by the long-awaited debut of freshman Alex Bregman who will start at short and bat in the three-hole. The New Mexico native is quite possibly the highest-touted position player to enroll at LSU (rather than verbally commit and go pro) in more than a decade.
Other newcomer in the starting lineup to keep an eye on are junior college infielder Christian Ibarra who will start at third tonight as well as right fielder and two-hole hitting true freshman Mark Laird.
LSU’s opponent posted a 32-24 mark last season and went 10-20 in ACC play.
First-year head coach John Szefc leads the Terps after former skipper Erik Bakich left to take the head post at Michigan. Local baseball connoisseurs may remember Szefc from his six-year stint at ULL in the 2000s.
His opening night starter is lefty Jimmy Reed, who went 1-3 last year with a 2.70 ERA in 60 innings. Reed almost showed as much control as Nola striking out 52 with just 16 walks.
The wind is blowing from the left side of the diamond to the right. First pitch temperature should be around 55, and it’ll likely dip into the 40s as the game progresses.
**Earlier, I incorrectly said tonight’s game will be televised by CST. It is not so it looks like you’re with me for the long haul. Tomorrow’s game will be though.**
1. Cheis Sciambra CF
2. Mark Laird RF
3. Alex Bregman SS
4. Raph Rhymes LF
5. Mason Katz 1B
6. JaCoby Jones 2B
7. Christian Ibarra 3B
8. Ty Ross C
9. Alex Edward DH
P-Aaron Nola RHP
1. Charlie White CF
2. Jordan Hagel RF
3. Kyle Convissar 2B
4. K.J. Hockaday 3B
5. Michael Montville LF
6. Anthony Papio DH
7. Jack Cleary C
8. LaMonte Wade 1B
9. Blake Schmit
P- Jimmy Reed LHP
Top of the First:
Nola’s first pitch is a strike at 7 on the dot… White whiffs, and Nola begins the season with a K… Hagel nubs it slowly to Katz at first for the second out… Convissar weakly grounds it to Jones at second, and it’s a quick three-up, three-down inning. Nola was on point, didn’t throw a ball with fewer than two strikes on the batter and looks like a legitimate front-line ace… No runs. No hits. No errors. None left on base… LSU 0, Maryland 0
Bottom of the First:
Sciambra falls behind 0-2 but takes a ball and smacks the next one up the middle for a single… Laird works the count full and grouds toConvassar at second right by the bag so he steps and throws it to first to beat Laird. Funny that Laird hits into a DP his first time up after Mainieri bragged about his speed all offseason. Two down… Bregman gives it a ride near the right field foul pole, but Hagel catches it while bumping into the wall. Nice oppo rip though. Side retired… No runs. One hit. No errors. None left on base… LSU 0, Maryland 0
Top of the Second:
Hockaday grounds to Bregman moving to his left, and he smoothly corrals it and whips it to first in time. Nice play and range there. One away… Montville walks on a payoff pitch… Papio is frozen on a fastball on the inside black. Two down… Cleary short-hops Bregman, and he delivers low to Katz at first. The senior scoops it and saves the freshman from a costly error… No runs. No hits. No errors. One left on base (first)… LSU 0, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Second:
Rhymes rolls it down the third base line off the heel of Hockaday’s glove, and it’s ruled a hit rather than an error. Can’t say I agree with that ruling, but the season starts with a hit for Rhymes. .500 here we come, right?… Katz works the count full then fouls balls near both poles before taking a strike three than almost hit him. Tough call there. One away… Jones takes ball four on a 3-2 pitch. LSU is really making Reed work… Ibarra pops out to first for out No. 2… Ross lines it to right center where the fielders collide, but Hagel brings it in. Tigers squander an opportunity there… No runs. One hit. No errors. Two left on base (first, second)… LSU 0, Maryland 0
Top of the Third:
Wade lays down a nice bunt, and Nola quickly comes over and throws out the speedy runner just in time. Nice play for the first out… Schmit loops a single to center, and Maryland’s first knock comes from the nine-hole… White sac bunts Schmit to second. Nola makes the play and there’s his second assist of the inning. Two down… Hagel whiffs on an offspeed pitch, and Nola is through three… No runs. One hit. No errors. One left on base (second)… LSU 0, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Third:
Edward lines it to center, and White moves in, dives and makes the catch. One out… Back to the top and Sciambra inside outs a rip down the left field line for a double… Laird grounds it to short under Sciambra. Schmit thinks about trying for Sciambra at third, but he gets the sure out at first instead. Two away… Bregman singles an 0-2 pitch up the middle to score Sciambra… Bregman then steals second. Clearly double-clutched it behind the plate making the steal easier… Rhymes flies out to left to end the threat… One run. Two hits. No errors. One left on base (second)… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Top of the Fourth:
Nola blows away Convissar on three pitches for out No. 1… Nola then throws three balls to Hockaday before he grounds it off his leg. Nola recovers and makes the flip to first. Two gone. Montville flails… No runs. No hits. No errors. None left on base… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Fourth:
Katz can’t check his swing for a K. One out… Jones bounces an 0-2 single up the middle for a single… Jones takes off on a 1-1 pitch to Ibarra and it gunned out. Two away… Ibarra then whiffs badly on a pitch in the dirt… No runs. One hit. No errors. None left on base… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Top of the Fifth:
Papio can’t hold up on a high fastball. One gone… Cleary takes two offfspeed pitches then flails at a fastball that was way high. It’s a three-pitch seventh K for Nola. Two outs… Wade pops out to Rhymes. Quick 1-2-3 frame for Nola. He’s at 64 pitches… No runs. No hits. No errors. None left on base… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Fifth:
Ross one-hops Reed for the first out… Edward flies out to center. Two gone… Sciambra gets yet another two-strike hit, a single up the middle. He’s 3-for-3… Laird lines out to center… No runs. One hit. No errors. One left on base (first)… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Top of the Sixth:
Schmit weakly rolls the first pitch to Jones for a quick out No. 1… Kevin Berry up in LSU’s bullpen… White one-hops Jones. Two down… Hagel fans on a high fastball for Nola’s eighth K on likely his last pitch. He’s thrown 76 of them and retired 11 straight… No runs. No hits. No errors. None left on base… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Sixth:
LSU switches to Joey Bourgeios in the pen and sits Berry down. Expect him out next inning… Jamie Pashuk the new Maryland pitcher. He’s a lefty sidewinder. He gets Bregman to roll out to short on his first pitch. One away… Rhymes hits a can of corn to right. Two down… Katz strikes out but reaches first on a wild pitch. It’ll go down as the hat trick for Katz even though he got on… Jones walks… Ibarra bounces to short, and the Terps go the short route to retire the side… No runs. No hits. No errors. Two left on base (first, second)… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Top of the Seventh:
Convissar smacks a single up the middle for just Maryland’s second knock of the day. Breaks up a streak of 11 set down by Nola… Hockaday is frozen on an 0-2 curve. Amazing pitch. 9 K’s. One out… Monteville scares Tiger faithful but flies out to Rhymes in left center. Two down, and that’ll be all for Nola. Tremendous first start of the season. Bourgeois in… Papio swings and misses to retire the side and close the book on Nola… No runs. One hit. No errors. One left on base (first)… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Seventh:
Ross slams a 2-2 single the other way to right… Edward grounds sharply into a 4-6-3 DP. Two gone… Sciambra pops it to left where Montville can’t come up with a diving play. Make it a 4-for-4 night… Laird rolls to short, and Schmit beats Sciambra to second for the third out… No runs. One hit. No errors. One left on base (first)… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Top of the Eighth:
Cleary pops out to Jones. One away… Wade flies out to Sciamba. Two away… A curveball gets away from Bourgeois, and he plunks Schmit high… Chris Cotton replaces Bourgeois and will go for a four-out save… Cotton gets Schmit 1-3-6 on a great pickoff move. On to the last of the eighth. He made three pitches first… No runs. No hits. No errors. None left on base… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Bottom of the Eighth:
Kevin Mooney the new Maryland pitcher, it’s first righty tonight… Bregman flies out to left. One away… Rhymes singles up the middle… Katz rolls into a tailor-made 6-4-3 DP. That should cap a terrible night for Katz at the plate… No runs. One hit. No errors. None left on base… LSU 1, Maryland 0
Top of the Ninth:
White gets a fresh slate and rolls out to Katz for the first out… Hagel flies out to Sciambra, and Maryland is down to its last out… Convissar grounds in the hole. Ibarra cuts it off but double clutches it and has no chance to throw him out. Call it a single… Hockaday three-hops a charging Bregman who throws low to Katz, but Katz can’t scoop it this time. Ruled a hit. Break for Bregman. First and second now with two outs… Montville rolls to Bregman, who flips to Jones for the final out and an LSU win… No runs. Two hits. No errors. Two left on base (first, second)… Gametime: 2:27
FINAL: LSU 1, Maryland 0