Caleb Gilbert finally re-discovered his put-away pitch and all that ailed him through a rocky start to the season just seemed to fall into place from there.
Gilbert fired 7.2 innings of four-hit ball with seven strikeouts, looking more like the stud who carved up Oregon State last summer than the guy who’d been tagged for 10 runs and 20 hits in 8.1 innings against Notre Dame and Texas.
The right-hander didn’t need much support, but LSU gave him plenty by scoring six runs with two outs in the fifth inning as the Tigers blanked Sacred Heart 7-0 at Alex Box Stadium on Saturday night.
“That’s a good baseball team,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I just think Gilbert pitched masterfully tonight. He was spotting his fastball on the outside corner, which was a predominant part of the gameplan. He was also getting ahead with his off-speed pitches. And when he got into two-strike counts, he made some good pitches. It was good to see he had that killer instinct.”
Gilbert exited to a standing ovation two outs into the seventh inning, fitting recognition for both how brilliant his outing was on Saturday night and how re-assuring it was for LSU (7-4) to see him pitch that way again.
Between Gilbert and Zack Hess, LSU got 14.2 innings of one-run ball with zero walks and 20 strikeouts out of the two stalwarts at the front of the rotation. That’s the kind of starting pitching that wins series.
“I’m sure he wanted to go out there tonight and make a statement that we could all count on him and not to worry,” Mainieri said. “I think he put any worries that anybody might have at ease tonight.”
The game felt like an old school pitcher’s duel in the early going.
Gilbert struck out the side in the fourth inning, which in itself matched the strikeout total from his first two starts. He struck out five and allowed three hits through the first five innings. The junior picked off two of those baserunners and Hunter Feduccia cut down the third trying to advance on a dirt ball.
Stymied early by James Taubl, another soft-tossing lefty, LSU broke through in the fifth inning with seven straight two-out hits, three of which went for extra bases.
Austin Bain got things going with a double to left and Feduccia plated him with a single to center. Beau Jordan then chased him home with an RBI triple down the right-field line and Jake Slaughter followed with an RBI single to left.
A Nick Webre double off the wall in right chased Taubl from the game. Bryce Jordan greeted the new pitcher with a two-run single to left. Brandt Broussard then singled home Jordan as the Tigers batted around in the inning.
“It was a lot of momentum and everybody fed off each other,” Bain said. “It was almost like a hit parade. What was it, seven in a row? That’s unbelievable.”
The Tigers tacked on another run in the seventh inning courtesy of an Antoine Duplantis sacrifice fly after Sacred Heart walked the bases loaded. Gilbert returned to start the eighth and got two more outs before turning the ball over to the bullpen.
LSU will go for a weekend sweep and 4-1 week on Sunday against Southeastern at 3 p.m. The Lions defeated the Tiger 5-4 in Hammond on Wednesday night. Right-hander AJ Labas will be making his first career start for LSU.