Todd Peterson appeared in shock as he walked off the mound on Saturday afternoon, looking around as if in search of answers as to what the heck just happened.
Peterson inherited a 1-0 lead in the sixth inning of a seven-inning game and proceeded to be tagged for five runs before being hooked. Cal won 5-2 to even the weekend series in the early portion of a double header at Alex Box Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“It was a no-brainier to go to your closer there,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Unfortunately they just hit Todd today. You’ve got to tip your hat to them.”
LSU’s internet sensation of a closer has now blown two save opportunities in as many chances, both in relatively spectacular fashion. Over his last three appearances, Peterson has given up eight runs (seven earned) on nine hits in 2.2 innings.
Still, Mainieri dismissed the idea of there being long-time concern about Peterson’s viability as a closer.
“He just got hit,” Mainieri said. “I don’t mean to be curt, but he just got hit. He didn’t walk anyone. He threw strikes. They put the bat on the ball … I don’t know what else to say. It’s not like he was babying the ball up there.”
The meltdown wasted two sensational outings from the pitchers who worked before Peterson. Cole Henry certainly gave LSU something to think about on the final weekend of non-conference play.
Moved from the bullpen to the weekend rotation, the cool, calm and collected freshman took his opportunity and ran with it. Henry shut out Cal over four innings of two-hit ball and didn’t walk a batter.
“I thought he was awesome,” Mainieri said. “He looked like a superstar starting pitcher in the SEC.”
The strong outing made a compelling case for Henry to remain in the rotation next week against Kentucky, but that’ll depend on his health. Henry was removed from the game because his back tightened up.
“I hated to take Henry out of the game,” Mainieri said. “His upper back tightened up on him behind his pitching shoulder, and I just didn’t want to run the risk anymore.”
Ma’Khail Hilliard took over in the fifth inning and looked much sharper than his previous outing on Wednesday. Hilliard had good life on his cutter and struck out two in a clean inning.
LSU, quiet over the first four innings, finally got on the board with one loud swing. Brock Mathis broke up the scoreless tie with a long solo home run to left, his third of the season.
Josh Smith homered in the sixth inning, his first of the season, but it wasn’t enough. LSU and Cal will play a rubber match 45 minutes after the final out.