By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Eight days ago a baseball broke Greg Deichmann’s face in three places, requiring surgery and placing his opening day status in jeopardy.
Stepping up to the plate for his first at-bat of 2017, the LSU slugger wasted little time exacting his just revenge.
Deichmann belted a 1-2 changeup from Army right-hander Matt Ball for a two-run home run to the deepest part of right-center field. The blast left his neon green bat with an exit velocity of 115 mph, according to TrakMan, and put the Tigers ahead 3-0 in the first inning.
“That was the third of three straight changeups,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Made a nice adjustment and hit the ball out of the ball park. We were kind of off to the races at that point.”
That’d be all the support Alex Lange needed. The right-handed ace showed no signs of rust after having his start pushed back a day by Mother Nature. Lange fired five shutout innings to pick up the victory as LSU (1-0) beat Army (0-2) 9-0 in the first of two seven-inning games at Alex Box Stadium Saturday.
“I thought that was a good solid outing to start the season,” Mainieri said. “Obviously Lange was really sharp. I thought he had great command of all his pitches. He just looked really terrific.”
Lange touched 96 mph with his fastball during an overpowering 1-2-3 first inning. His curveball and overall command were sharp considering it was the first outing of the season. Lange allowed just four hits and didn’t issue a walk while striking out six. He threw first-pitch strikes to 15 of the 18 batters he faced.
Army, heavily utilizing the bunt, managed to put three runners in scoring position between the second and third innings, but Lange — with some defensive help from Cole Freeman, who singled, stole second base and came around to score LSU’s first run — stranded them all.
“It’s one of the checkpoints we work on with Coach (Alan) Dunn, first pitch strikes,” Lange said. “If you flip the count to 0-1, batting averages are cut in half. When you go from 0-1 to 0-2, batting averages are almost minuscule. So it’s important to pitch in your count.”
LSU began tacking on insurance runs in the fourth. True freshman first baseman Jake Slaughter took Ball deep for a towering solo home run to left field, his first career hit, to put the Tigers ahead 4-0. The rookie also impressed with his debut at first base.
The Tigers broke the game open one inning later.
Left fielder Brennan Breaux began the fifth with a single and came around to score on Freeman’s RBI double down the left-field line. Freeman himself came home on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Deichmann that resulted in a throwing error.
Slaughter followed with a walk to load the bases and designated hitter Bryce Adams singled home Kramer Robertson. Third baseman Josh Smith, another true freshman, drew a bases-loaded walk to earn his first collegiate RBI. Nick Coomes than pitch hit for Mike Papierki and drove a sacrifice fly to deep left as LSU batted around in the frame.
The second half of the double header will begin at 4 p.m. Lefty Jared Poche’ will get the start for LSU.