Cranford, DiGiacomo step forward in 12-2 victory

Jonathan Mailhes

LSU nine-hole hitter Collier Cranford had his first career multi-hit day and doubled his season hit total in LSU’s 12-2 win over UMass Lowell Saturday evening in Alex Box Stadium.

The freshman shortstop had a 3 for 4 performance where he brought in three runs and scored three runs himself.

Cranford has thrived since the Tigers (10-5) returned to Baton Rouge following a 1-2 showing in Houston where they got no-hit Sunday against Oklahoma. When the team arrived in Baton Rouge, the coaching staff drilled home the importance of an opposite field approach to give the hitters a more balanced approach at the plate and cut down on the number of strikeouts.

That approach has worked for the entire team, but it has worked especially well for Cranford. In the three games since the team returned from Houston, Cranford is 5 for 8 at the plate with five RBI and four runs scored.

“I feel like I’m seeing the ball really well, just by changing my approach,” Cranford said. “When (the LSU coaching staff) were with us earlier in this week, that really helped me. That’s the main thing for me, I don’t think I’ve changed anything in my swing, it’s just approach based.”

Cranford reached base on every at bat Saturday.

He hit an RBI single to score center fielder Giovanni DiGiacomo in the second inning, an infield single in the fourth, a fielder’s choice in the fifth, and another RBI single to score designated hitter Mitchell Sanford in the sixth. He came around to score the first three times he reached base.

DiGiacomo and right fielder Daniel Cabrera also had multi-hit day for the Tigers. Cabrera went 2 for 3 with two walks, scoring two runs on a fourth-inning single to right. DiGiacomo went 2 for 4 at the plate, hitting a two-run single down the third baseline with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

That was the hit that opened the floodgates, as LSU would go on to bat around and score five runs on three hits in the inning.

“Offensively we played well again,” Mainieri said. “Cranford had a big game and Gio came through with some more hits. We just did some really good stuff.”

The opposite field approach has been working for DiGiacomo as well, who is 5 for 7 on the weekend against UMass Lowell (4-8) with three RBI and four runs scored.

“I guess I’m pretty comfortable right now,” DiGiacomo said. “I’m just seeing it and feeling good. Really been working with (LSU hitting coach) Eddie Smith on trying to be consistent, more relaxed, and seeing the ball better. I think it’s been working really well.”

LSU starting pitcher Landon Marceaux threw for five innings, allowing just two earned runs off four hits and three walks with eight strikeouts.

Marceaux gave up an infield single and a double to River Hawk right fielder Vinnie Martin in the third inning to put UMass Lowell on the board. In the next inning he allowed a leadoff double and then back to back walks to load the bases with no outs. Marceaux was able to get out of the jam with minimal damage, only giving up a run off a sac fly from UML second baseman Jonny Gilbride.

“They got to him a little bit there,” Mainieri said. “But I thought he pitched really outstanding. We were able to get him out of there after five innings, which is something I wanted to do to keep his pitch count down and make sure he’s ready for next weekend.”

Jaden Hill came on in relief of Hill and recorded his second save of the year by virtue of pitching the last four innings where he didn’t allow a hit or a walk while striking out three.

Hill wasn’t scheduled to throw four innings, but with a large lead and a low pitch count, Mainieri let him finish the job.

“It was fun,” Hill said. “I didn’t know I was going to stay out there the whole time. I didn’t know if I was going to go four. But it was fun being out there, I enjoyed it.”

Combined with the Texas outing in Houston, Hill has now thrown seven consecutive innings without a hit. Over that stretch he has only allowed one walk and struck out nine.

LSU will go for the sweep against UMass Lowell Sunday at 2:00 p.m. The game will be broadcast online on SEC Network+ and over the radio on 98.1 FM.

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