Sean Ochinko calls him ‘The Professional Hitter.’ Soon enough Paul Mainieri may be calling him LSU’s everyday third baseman.
Chris Reid started at the hot corner and provided a steadying presence throughout LSU’s series victory against Hawaii. The junior went 4-for-8 with two RBI, two runs scored and two walks while playing a clean third base.
“I thought Reid played great,” Mainieri said. “He played exactly the way I thought he would, which is just Steady Eddie.”
The veteran infielder has been a useful player for LSU throughout the pre-conference season, whether as a pinch hitter coming off the bench or starting at third base.
He’s now 9-for-23 (.391) on the season and has drawn seven walks, which is fifth on the team despite limited plate appearances. His .516 on-base percentage would lead the team by 60 points if he had enough at-bats to qualify.
Reid isn’t a power threat — all nine of his hits have been singles — or a speedster, but as his nickname suggests, he understands what he’s doing at the plate. He works the count, has a disciplined strike zone and doesn’t panic with two strikes, often peppering pitches into shallow left field.
“He can’t run from here to there in a day and doesn’t have any power, but he puts the bat on the ball as good as anybody we have on the team,” Mainieri said. “He makes the plays at third. He’s become a smart baseball player. Very poised.
“If he could run real fast or once in a while hit one in the seats, we’d have something real special. You can’t have everything. But I thought he made us a better team this weekend.”
That’s not a guarantee he’ll be in the lineup when LSU opens Southeastern Conference play against Missouri on Friday night, but it seems likely as Mainieri searches for stability from an offense that’s run hot and cold of late.
Resident jack-of-all-trades Austin Bain acquitted himself well in two starts at first base this weekend, the latest avenue Mainieri has found to get his bat in the lineup.
Bain was charged with an error Sunday on a ball that bounded off the heel of his glove — Mainieri attributed it to it being his first time using a first baseman’s mitt, which is considerably longer than gloves used by other infielders — but it didn’t cost LSU anything.
“He did everything right except catch the ball,” Mainieri said. “I thought he handled himself admirably. Obviously we won the series and he made a big difference in the lineup.”
Bain came through with two-out RBI hits in the first inning of both wins against the Rainbow Warriors. He finished the weekend 4-for-8 with four runs scored to go along with the pair of tone-setting base hits.
“That’ll earn you more at-bats with me,” Mainieri said.
PEN GETTING DEEPER
LSU hae already blown the game wide open, so there may not have been much on the line beyond Ma’Khail Hilliard’s scoreless-inning streak, but Cam Sanders’ first relief appearance at LSU didn’t go unnoticed.
Sanders is moving to the bullpen now that AJ Labas is taking over in the midweek. He came on to relieve Hilliard with a runner on third base and one out in the sixth inning Sunday.
The right-hander struck out No. 3 hitter Adam Fogel on three successive curveballs and induced a comebacker to the mound from cleanup man Ethan Lopez to keep the shutout intact.
“I just think he’s going to fill a role for us,” Mainieri said. “He’s a versatile guy for us because you can extend him or he can come in in the middle of an inning and get you out of a jam because of his stuff. Honestly, that’s something I’ve been striving for; to have a pitcher that can get us out of a jam in the middle of an inning.”
The coach was also pleased with the debut of lefty John Kodros, who worked a scoreless innings and picked up a strikeout later on in the game. Kodros got a late start to the season due to shoulder soreness earlier this spring.
“Awesome. I was real happy with him and he’s going to help us, that kid,” Mainieri said. “He’s got a different delivery. You might even call it funky. And he’s got an excellent left-handed curveball.”
Their addition to the bullpen should only help a pitching staff that’s steadily righted the ship after a rocky start to the season. LSU has pitched to a staff ERA of 3.01 in its last 14 games since allowing 31 earned runs to Notre Dame on opening weekend.
LSU IN THE POLLS
The Tigers are a consensus top-20 team in all four polls despite dropping in three of them following a 3-2 week.
Here’s a look at where LSU stands with one game to go in pre-conference play. As always, the previous week’s ranking are in parenthesis:
D1Baseball 20 (22)
Baseball America 17 (16)
Perfect Game 16 (14)
Collegiate Baseball Newspaper 16 (13)