A freshman staked his claim to the Sunday starter job on the final weekend of pre-conference play, but it wasn’t the 6-foot-6 prized prospect described as having “big-league stuff.”
Instead it was the local kid who weighs about 150 pounds soaking wet.
Spot starting for Nick Storz, who still isn’t 100 percent, Ma’Khail Hilliard took the ball and fired 5.1 shutout innings as LSU pounded Hawaii 14-1 in a rubber match at Alex Box Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“He started today, so I would think there’s a good possibility of that,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said of Hilliard’s candidacy. “We’ll see. He really did a super job.”
“That would be awesome,” Hilliard smiled. “Anywhere they put me I’m going to do my job, but I’d love to be a Sunday starter. It’s always been a goal to get in the weekend rotation.”
LSU (11-6) again raced out to a big early lead, scoring six times in the first three innings, and all nine guys in the starting lineup scored at least one run as LSU pounded out a season-high 17 hits, but the story of the day was Hilliard.
He’s now begun his collegiate career with 17.1 scoreless innings in a row after scattering three hits and two walks Sunday. Hawaii put a runner in scoring position in each of the first three innings, but Hilliard continued to shine and do his best work in those tense situations.
“You can’t teach that, either,” Austin Bain said. “It’s good to have a guy that naturally comes in in a tight jam and doesn’t lose his composure. He doesn’t overthrow. He just stays within himself.”
Bain got the hit parade started with a two-out RBI single as LSU scored in the first inning for a sixth consecutive game. Hunter Feduccia brought him home with a double, the start of a four-RBI afternoon for the Tiger backstop.
LSU scored four more times in the third inning as Beau Jordan, Chris Reid and Hal Hughes each came through with run-scoring knocks. The Tigers batted around in the fifth and broke the game open with seven more runs, aided by some suspect defense from Hawaii as things got out of game.
Despite the long layoff, LSU coach Paul Mainieri allowed Hilliard to return in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff double and got a groundout before exiting to a standing ovation. Cam Sanders came on and stranded that runner at third to keep his teammate’s shutout streak alive.
Having played 10 games in the past 13 days, LSU will now enjoy a couple of days off before hosting South Alabama at Alex Box Stadium on Wednesday night. Missouri then comes to town as SEC play begins in earnest on Friday.
“Good all-around victory for us today to finish up that stretch,” Mainieri said. “We won seven out of the 10. I wish we would have won three more, but we’re getting better.”
- Lefty John Kodros made his LSU debut and worked a scoreless inning.