‘LSU infielder Cade Doughty made a triumphant return to his team’s starting lineup and pitcher Ma’Khail Hilliard returned in good standing to the bullpen in Tuesday’s 10-4 victory over Texas Southern in Alex Box Stadium.
Doughty homered in his first plate appearance since injuring his shoulder six games ago. Hilliard, after a shaky outing last Friday, pitched three-plus scoreless innings in relief to gain his first victory of the season and just his second since 2018.
No. 15 LSU (10-3) travels to face UNO at Maestri Field at Privateer Park at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Freshman Will Hellmers, a New Orleans native, is scheduled starter.
“Ma’Khail was really good, really outstanding,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “His fastball was really moving, and his curveball had such nice, tight spin on it. It looked like the Ma’Khail Hilliard of old.”
Freshman first baseman Tre’ Morgan enjoyed a breakthrough evening at the plate, going 3-for-5 with a career-high 4 RBIs that included a two-run double in the fourth and two-run triple in the eighth.
LSU finished with 10 hits, including three for extra bases, with Doughty (3 RBIs) and Thompson each collecting a pair of hits.
“Tonight, he (Morgan) was very clutch and came through with some big at bats as did Cade Doughty,” Mainieri said. “Those two guys drove in seven of our 10 runs. Both of them had big nights for us and carried the team.”
Hilliard (1-0) entered the game in relief of Blake Money with two outs and the bases loaded in the second. It was his first appearance since allowing six runs (all earned) on five hits in one-third of an inning in LSU’s 22-7 loss to Oral Roberts.
TSU (3-10) had sent seven straight batters to the plate, having scored twice to recapture the lead at 3-2 when Hilliard entered the game. He promptly uncorked a wild pitch that led to another run and 4-2 deficit.
“Ma’Khail came in and got us a big out with the bases loaded and settled in,” Mainieri said. “Ma’Khail was the MVP of the game tonight. If he hadn’t done what he did, it could have been really hairy. He got control of the game and allowed our guys to start swinging the bats and we got enough runs to win the game.”
Doughty was back in LSU’s starting lineup since a freak injury to his shoulder sidelined him since the Tigers’ 14-0 win over Nicholls State on Feb. 27. He was part of a new-look infield, getting his first start of the season at third base where he registered a pair of assists with Zach Arnold at second base and Jordan Thompson at shortstop.
“He was outstanding,” Mainieri said of Doughty. “I was going to make that move (to third base) a week ago and he got hurt. Everything got put on hold. He was all for it, an anything-for-the-team attitude. It was the right thing to do.”
Doughty immediately impacted the LSU offense when he homered to left field with one out and right fielder Dylan Crews aboard for a 2-1 lead in the first inning.
TSU took back the lead at 4-2 in the third, sending a total of nine batters to the plate to score three runs on two hits. The visitors also took advantage of passed ball and wild pitch that produced two of their three runs.
Hilliard got the last final out of the third and found his groove where he former Central High standout threw 3.1 innings in relief. He retired 10 consecutive batters at one point, including five strikeouts, enabling his team to rally and take the lead for good.
Designated hitter Cade Beloso drove in a run with a groundout in the third and left fielder Gavin Dugas tied the game at 4-4 with a run-scoring double to left-center field. He then gave the Tigers a 5-4 lead when he scored with a head-first slide on a wild pitch.
Morgan increased his team’s lead to 7-4 with a two-run double to left field that scored Thompson and Crews, both of whom picked up back-to-back one-out singles. He came back in the eighth to cap the Tigers scoring with his two-run triple to score Thompson and pinch-runner Will Safford.
Relief pitcher Devin Fontenot, typically the Tigers’ closer, came on in the seventh and got into a jam with back-to-back walks to bring the potential tying run to the plate. He responded with a groundout that moved runners to second and third and closed out the inning with consecutive strikeouts.
LSU’s pitchers, six in all, combined to allow 4 runs on 4 hits with 12 strikeouts and 7 walks.
“It was still a confidence builder for him to get those last two outs,” Mainieri said of Fontenot.