By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU played long ball to back John Valek III in the afternoon portion of Saturday’s split-admission double header against Fordham.
Jordan Romero (2-for-3, 2 RBI) and Jake Fraley (2-for-3, 2 RBI) each homered and Kramer Robertson delivered a two-run single in a five-run second inning to stake the left-hander to an early 6-0 lead that’d only swell as the afternoon wore on.
Valek allowed one run on three hit in five innings to earn his third victory in as many starts. LSU (8-2) defeated Fordham (3-6) 15-1 to secure a series victory and will go for the sweep with Alex Lange on the mound in the nightcap at Alex Box Stadium.
“(Romero) is hitting the ball hard,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “He’s having quality at-bats, and obviously his home run got us going. Fraley hit the big home run as well. So that was great to see.”
Though he issued his first walk of the season, Valek again coasted through three innings before so much as allowing a hit. He did fire one of his two 1-2-3 frames after LSU posted it’s five-run second.
The Rams didn’t make it easy on Valek (3-0), forcing him to throw 81 pitches (53 strikes) to navigate through five frames. Fordham’s lone run came on a two-out RBI single from Justin Bardwell after Ryan McNally led off the fourth with a double.
“I thought he was going to pitch a no-hitter there for a while,” Mainieri said. “He was carving them up, but they got to him a little bit and his pitch count got up. Once that (fifth) inning started to get a little bit long, I decided that was enough for him.”
Still nursing a five-run lead, he caught a caught a line drive back at him to end the inning and spiked the ball on his way off the mound.
“Just a little frustrated I gave up that one run,” Valek said. “But I cooled off, and all in all it was a good day.”
Through three starts Valek has pitched to a 2.04 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just one walk. With just one weekend remaining before the start of SEC play, he continued to lock down his role as LSU’s Sunday starter.
“Obviously it’s not going to go any better than three starts three wins,” Valek said. “I feel great. I’m happy the way the season has started and we need to keep going on.”
Leading 6-1, LSU began pouring it on in the fifth. Beau Jordan, who became the first Tiger to 10 RBI with a run-scoring double in the first, go plunked to begin the frame. Not to be outdone, twin brother Bryce got drilled on the very next pitch. Both came around to score and the lead swelled to 8-1.
Bryce Jordan delivered a two-run single in the following inning and came around to score a third run on a wild pitch. Chris Reid tacked on two more by motoring around for an inside-the-park home run — the first HR of his collegiate career — on a ball that sliced under the bullpen bench in left field.
Four LSU relievers worked a hitless inning apiece to complete a three-hitter. First pitch for the nightcap is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. as the Tigers go for the weekend sweep.
– Bryce Jordan went to the training room the have his sore ankle examined after colliding with a photographer in foul territory in the third inning. He remained in the game until being lifted in the seventh. He was a late scratch from the game two lineup due to the injury.
– Mainieri said Trey Dawson will play third base in the second half of the double header. Greg Diechamnn will play first base. The DH spot will depend on Jordan’s availability.
– Antoine Duplatnis singled and scored in the sixth inning to extend his hitting streak to begin his career to 10 games.
– Struggling right-handers Riley Smith and Austin Bain retired the side in order in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Smith induced three soft outs while Bain struck out the side. “I thought they both threw good. That was great. They looked more relaxed out there and were challenging the hitters.”