LSU starting pitcher Landon Marceaux hit his goal of allowing three runs or fewer in six innings.
Freshmen relievers Garrett Edwards and Javen Coleman combined for 2.2 innings of shutout hurling.
The visiting Tigers added four runs in their last two at-bats, keyed by freshman first baseman Tre’ Morgan’s two-run triple in the eighth.
And when the opener of a three-game SEC series at Auburn went in the books as an 8-3 LSU victory Thursday night, LSU coach Paul Mainieri was relaxed enough afterward to have a good laugh at a mound visit he made to Marceaux.
While LSU (28-17 overall, 8-14) goes for the series win Friday night at 7 p.m. with AJ Labas on the mound, it seems Mainieri’s team finally understands it has no wiggle room to let off the gas.
“Three runs is never enough, four runs is never enough, seven runs is never, having that attitude takes you a long way,” said Marceaux, who lasted 6.1 innings, struck out 11 and allowed an Auburn solo homer each in the sixth and seventh innings as the LSU lead shrank to 4-3. “It’s like however many runs we had on the board wasn’t enough. We had to keep going down the stretch.”
Leadoff hitters Morgan and Auburn shortstop Ryan Bliss were a combined 8-of-10 at the plate, including three Bliss doubles and Morgan’s well-timed triple capping his 4 of 5 plate performance.
“I knew we didn’t have enough runs, so I tried to go up there and get a clutch two-out RBI,” said Morgan who ended up plating two runs after catcher Alex Milazzo’s sacrifice fly RBI started the trio of eighth-inning insurance runs.
LSU’s 7-8-9 hole batters – designated hitter Cade Beloso, second baseman Drew Bianco and Milazzo – were a combined 3 of 9 with two RBIs and three runs scored.
Milazzo also made some big defensive plays, like bailing Edwards out in the Auburn eighth when he threw AU second baseman Cade Foster after Foster hit a double and was napping.
Mainieri’s biggest worry was making sure Auburn’s Bliss didn’t come to the plate with runners on base.
After doubles in the first and third innings, Bliss was batting in top of the fifth with one out and left fielder Judd Ward at second base after doubling.
Marceaux and Bliss had a nine-pitch battle with Bliss fouling off five pitches before grounding out to a perfectly positioned Bianco behind second base
Mainieri noticed Marceaux trying to catch his breath after the long at-bat, so he decided to visit Marceaux on the mound to simply kill some time for him to get a breather.
“Marceaux turned around and saw me coming out and his eyes got real big,” Mainieri said. “He had a look like `What are YOU doing out here?’
“I said. `Hey, how you doing? I just thought I’d come out and visit with you a little while.’
“He started to laugh a bit and I said, `I just want to give you a little bit of a blow. That was a great battle with that kid and I just want you to kind of catch your breath and really focus on this next guy (Auburn first baseman Tyler Miller) because this kid’s a really good hitter, too. You’re not out of the woods yet, so catch your breath.’
“Then, the umpire (David Brown) came out to join the party. I said, `Hey Dave, how you doing?’ He’s like, `I’m good Paul, how are you?’
“I said, `I’m just out here giving Landon a little bit of time to catch his breath. You’re doing a pretty good job behind the plate tonight.’ He said, `I appreciate that, thank you.’ I said, `Keep it up now, alright? My kid is really battling, we need you to keep doing a good job.’
“We had a little levity. I didn’t want Landon to get all uptight about the situation, he was pitching his heart out.”
Mainieri’s mound visit worked. Marceaux blew a 2-2 fastball past Miller for a third out.