Hampton steps forward in victory over La Tech

Jonathan Mailhes

Maurice Hampton Jr. is playing from behind the eight ball, but you’d never know it by watching him Wednesday night.

After missing the entirety of fall practice due to his obligations with the national championship winning football team, he has officially caught up to the speed of college baseball.

Hampton had his first career multi-hit night in LSU’s 7-1 victory over Louisiana Tech in Alex Box Stadium where he reached base safely after every plate appearance, scored three runs, and brought home two runs.

In his first two at bats, Hampton recorded his first career extra base hit with an RBI double to left in the second before coming back and scoring another run with a single to left. Hampton then reached via a hit by pitch and a walk.

With the double, Hampton now owns a five-game hit streak.

“The game is definitely slowing down in every aspect,” Hampton said. “The more reps I get, the more at bats I get, the more time I get in the field, I feel like I’ll get better and better…these last couple of games has helped me build my confidence.”

Hampton performed well at the plate but looked even better in left field. Despite the wind whipping in, Hampton made great reads on the balls consistently and made a few nice runs to run down outs.

“Maurice was amazing tonight,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “Some of those balls that he ran down in the outfield, you don’t see that happen too often in college baseball…he ran balls down in the outfield, he came through with two really clutch hits with two strikes on him in scoring position. I thought he played a really terrific game.”

LSU (6-3) opened the scoring early, plating a run in the first inning when third baseman Zack Mathis’ leadoff single came around to score on a single from first baseman Cade Beloso.

The hot-hitting Mathis is the only player to hold a candle to Hampton’s night. Mathis went 3 for 5 with two RBI and a run scored, including an RBI triple.

Mathis has flourished since moving to the leadoff spot in the second game of the Eastern Kentucky series, going 6 for 10 over that three-game span.

“I feel like I can be aggressive in the leadoff spot,” Mathis said. “That’s kind of my game anyways. It’s almost simpler for me. I don’t have to wait for guys to get on and I don’t have to come up with two outs or anything. I can just start off right away.”

The Tigers added three more runs in the second inning after center fielder Giovanni DiGiacomo’s leadoff walk was cashed in by Hampton’s double before picking up another run off another RBI single from Beloso. Mathis and Hampton contributed an additional two-out RBI single each in the third inning to boost the lead to 6-0.

Mathis brought home LSU’s seventh and final run in the fifth inning when his triple down the first baseline scored Hampton, who reached base on a hit by pitch.

“I felt more comfortable with our offense,” Mainieri said. “It wasn’t just station to station and hope somebody hits a home run. We were able to put some pressure on the other team, and it worked out well for us.”

Louisiana Tech (5-3) responded in the sixth with its only run of the game when shortstop Alex Ray scored on second baseman Taylor Young’s double into right field.

LSU threw eight different pitchers in an effort to keep the bullpen as intact as possible for this weekend when it takes on Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma in the Houston College Classic.

The only Tiger pitcher to throw for two innings was starter Brandon Kaminer, who allowed a hit with a strikeout.

While there have been three runs scored on Kaminer in his 6.2 innings pitched this year, none of them have been earned.

“I just try to go out there and think about that too much,” Kaminer said. “I just want to get the momentum going for the team. Giving up runs or not, just get outs and get the team in as quick as I can so they can go out there, hit, and get some runs.”

LSU will leave bright and early Thursday morning for Houston, where they will open with the undefeated Texas Longhorns at 7 p.m. Friday night. The Tigers then draw Baylor at 3 p.m. Saturday before wrapping up with Oklahoma at 11 a.m. Sunday. All three games will be broadcast over the air on the AT&T Sports Network and CST, and online at MLB.com.

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