Cade Beloso swears he’s a good bunter, despite what Paul Mainieri may say, but that’s not why he was recruited to LSU.
LSU’s freshman first baseman played the hero again Saturday with a two-run blast to right, his second of the game, to flip a one-run deficit into a lead in the sixth inning of a seven-inning game.
Beloso and Chris Reid combined for three home runs and drove in four of LSU’s five runs as the Tigers came back for a 5-4 win over Cal, splitting a double header and clinching a series victory at Alex Box Stadium in the process.
“(Mainieri) asked me if I wanted to bunt or if I wanted to hit,” Beloso smiled. “Obviously I wanted to hit, and I made the most of my swing.”
Devin Fontenot came out of the bullpen and shared in the hero duties. He wiggled out of a jam in the fourth inning and pitched the final four frames without yielding a run to nail down the rubber match win.
Those four innings of shutout ball came less than 24 hours after Fontenot received a quick hook for walking a batter hitting .093.
Both Mainieri — and Beloso, who challenged Fontenot to finish the job after delivering his go-ahead blast — implored the right-hander to go out and let his electric arm work for him.
“I did not want to come out at all,” Fontenot said. “I felt like I was in a groove and I was feeling really good. Everything was working.”
Cal put the tying run in scoring position against Fontenot in the final frame. Closer Todd Peterson was warm, but Mainieri stuck with Fontenot. The game ended on a line drive smoked right to Reid at the hot corner.
“He took the challenge that I put in his lap yesterday and he responded to it today,” Mainieri said. “We wouldn’t have won without him. I just thought it was his game.”
LSU rallied late in two of the three games and gave back a late lead in the one game that got away. Mainieri hopes the series will be a good tune-up for the more difficult slate ahead.
“That was exactly what we needed to have,” Mainieri said. “That kind of a tough series prior to starting SEC play next weekend.”
Before that, Eric Walker was cruising along in the early going, retiring the first eight hitters he faced, but things quickly went off the rails from there.
The unraveling began with a two-out walk to Cal’s No. 9 hitter, which turned the lineup over. Two singles later and a run came home as Brock Mathis wasn’t able to handle Josh Smith’s relay throw to the plate, which could’ve ended the inning had he handled it and applied a tag.
Walker walked the next two batters to force in a run. A two-run single to left from Cal second baseman Darren Baker doubled the damage and Walker was pulled without recording an out in the fourth inning.
LSU stayed in the game thanks to strong relief pitching from Devin Fontenot and a pair of solo home runs. Reid and Beloso went deep in the second and fourth innings, respectively. For Reid, it was the second home run of his four-year career and the first that actually left the yard.
The Tigers were in prime position to pull even in the fifth inning, but a promising rally came up short. A hit by pitch got the inning started and Zach Watson delivered an RBI double to halve the deficit. Watson advanced to third base on a fly ball, but Daniel Cabrera and Saul Garza failed to tie the game.
LSU will be back in action on Tuesday night at Northwestern State. Landon Marceaux is scheduled to start for LSU.