Fall Ball: Observations from LSU-UNO exhibition

UNO defeated LSU 8-7 in a 14-inning exhibition game at Alex Box Stadium on Sunday afternoon. The result itself is rather immaterial for fairly obvious reasons — like, for instance, the fact that it was a glorified scrimmage with odd rules.

It was long past time for the NCAA to allow schools to play two intra-squad scrimmages in the fall without counting them against their schedule allotment, but don’t get carried away assigning meaning to what went on.

This should help illustrate that point: innings ended after 20 pitches, even if the bases were loaded with nobody out. That happened one at least one occasion Sunday.

“Today was a great day that we got to do this,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I told the guys, and I wish you guys wouldn’t even report the final score because it wasn’t a true game. Whether it hurt us more or them more, I don’t know, but we both had innings shut down. It was clear to me that there’s a lot of areas we need to improve in, but I think there’s some things we did really good.”

Most of LSU’s premier pitchers have already been shut down for the fall for precautionary reasons, but exhibition offered a first look of sorts at how several of LSU’s highly-touted newcomers fair in a game situation.

The story of the afternoon was freshman right-hander Landon Marceaux, who continued his strong fall. Marceaux started and fired three shutout innings, allowing just two singles while striking out five with no walks.

Marceaux sat 92-94 mph with his fastball and mixed in an overhand curveball and a changeup. The curveball was his sharpest pitch on Sunday, generating a handful of defensive swings and knee-buckling takes.

“Threw pretty well,” Marceaux said of his fall. “Throwing all pitches for strikes. It was good to have a few strikeouts and keep runs off the board. I got ahead with every pitch.”

LSU’s 2018 recruiting class was rated No. 1 in the country by Baseball America, D1Baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball Magazine, and Marceaux is one of the headliners. He’ll be shut down for the remainder of the fall and enter the spring with a chance to start the season in LSU’s weekend rotation.

“Marceaux is going to be a really critical guy for us all year,” Mainieri said. “I think he showed tonight what he’s capable of doing, and I think he’s even better than that. He’ll continue to get better, but that’ll be his last outing of fall practice. We’ll shut him down until spring because we know he’ll be ready to go. We’ll take no risk of injury with him the rest of the way.”

Right-hander Jaden Hill, another blue chip freshman, wasn’t nearly as sharp during his outing. He took over for Marceaux in the fourth and served up a three-run home run to left-center field.

Hill allowed two more baserunners before the inning was called due to the pitch limit put into effect for this exhibition. He allowed another run on two singles and a sacrifice fly in his second inning of work. He hit consecutive batters in his third and final frame.

“I give credit to their team, honestly,” Mainieri said. “The single, double and home run were all on like 92-93 mph fastballs, and they just put good swings on them. I’m not so sure they were bad pitches as much as they just did a good job with them. Jaden will learn. He’s got to change speeds more often and you can’t be afraid to throw a 93 mph fastball in the strike zone. He did and they hit it.”

The coach continued: “When he mixes his pitches up a little bit more, he’ll be more effective. He’s going to be a guy we’re going to count on as well.”

The lineup, despite dealing with far fewer injuries than the pitching staff, struggled for much of the afternoon. Here’s some of the position players who stood out for LSU and some other noteworthy items:

– Third baseman Drew Bianco went 2-for-4 and reached base four times to continue a strong fall for the freshman. Bianco lined a single to left in his first at-bat and showed both power and speedy by legging out a triple on a ball that got into the right-center field gap. Bianco later drew a walked and scored the tying run from first base on a double by Michael Kirsch in the 13th inning. Bianco is a leading contender to start at third base this season.

– Josh Smith got the start at designated hitter in a somewhat surprising development. He was questionable to play after bruising his rotator cuff diving for a popup on Monday, but got the go-ahead to take some at-bats after batting practice. Smith finished 0-for-2 with a walk before being lifted for a pinch hitter.

– LSU scored four of its runs in the ninth inning. Antoine Duplantis, who had a sacrifice fly earlier in the game, singled home a run. Daniel Cabrera plated two more with a single and LSU tied the game at 5-5 on an error.

– Zach Watson made a pair of diving grabs in center field behind Marceaux in the third inning. He misread both balls off the bat, but had enough speed to charge in and make the plays regardless.

– Freshmen Cade Beloso and CJ Willis had nice afternoons as well. Beloso went 1-for-4 with a sharp single and made a couple of nice plays defensively when he had to range off the bag. Willis, who replaced Smith, went 1-for-2 and drew a pair of walks. Willis can only hit this fall due to a high school shoulder injury.

About James Moran 1208 Articles
James Moran was named Editor of Tiger Rag in August 2018. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He covers LSU football and baseball and is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.

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