LSU Baseball: No. 2 LSU is as Offensive as Ever in an 11-8 Season-Opening Win Over VMI

LSU first baseman leads the team in homers this season after hitting three against McNeese. PHOTO BY Michael Bacigalupi

Brand new team. Brand new season.

But Friday afternoon LSU looked very much like the same blatantly offensive team it was all last season.

No. 2 LSU opened its season with an 11-8 win over VMI, and 2024 looked an awful lot like 2023 for the Tigers.

As nearly 12,000 fans packed into the Alex Box Stadium, LSU’s much ballyhooed pitchers showed up, only not quite as expected. LSU’s pitchers did not perform as well as most thought they would.

But maybe that’s in large part due to the fact that VMI was the No. 4 hitting team in all of college baseball last season and returned virtually its entire line up this season.

VMI certainly looked like a group of poised and savvy veterans at the plate.

It’s not that LSU’s pitching performed poorly. It’s just that LSU had to rely on its offense to score 11 runs on 12 hits, including nine hits from the middle of its lineup – batters four through seven, to be exact. Two monster home runs, one each from sophomore Jared Jones in the bottom of the second inning and another late in the game from DH Hayden Travinski to salt away a pesky VMI team.

Sound familiar?

VMI led LSU 6-5 going into to the sixth inning.

The Keydets scored five of their runs with two outs and all five came directly as a result of mistakes from LSU’s first two pitchers, starter Thatcher Hurd and then reliever Justin Loer.

LSU jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Jones cranked out a three-run bomb.

But with two outs in the top of the third inning, Hurd walked Kazu Jordan, giving up the pass to Jordan on a full count pitch that missed its spot.

Hurd then tried back-to-back pick off attempts as Jordan was taking an aggressively large lead from first. Both pick offs missed, and the second one resulted in a balk being called on Hurd.

With Jordan nestled in at second base, Ty Swaim sneaked a 2-1 Hurd pitch into right field for an RBI single scoring Jordan.

Following a mound visit, Swaim stole second and then VMI’s Trey Morgan singled a 2-2 pitch to center, scoring Swaim and cutting LSU’s lead to 3-2.

Hurd then surrendered a double to Justin Starke that drove Morgan in. Col Jenkins followed Starks’ double with by driving a 2-1 Hurd pitch to left field, scoring Starks from second base to put the Keydets ahead, 4-3.

Loer then relieved Hurd to get the final out of the inning.

LSU regained the lead in the bottom of the third, 5-4, off a stand-up two-run double from Paxton Kling.

VMI scored one run each in the fourth and fifth inning to go back up, 6-5, before LSU scored five runs in the bottom of the sixth off only one hit to take a 10-6 lead. LSU, which was hit by eight pitches during the game, was hit by five pitches in the bottom of the sixth alone.

Travinski added LSU’s final run with a one-out solo bomb in bottom of the eighth inning that bounced off the scoreboard in left field.

Travinski’s first home run of the season capped LSU’s scoring for the game.

Gage Jump, a transfer from UCLA who saw his first game action in 17 months since having Tommy John surgery while a Bruin, took over in the top of the ninth and put VMI down in order in only 11 pitches, picking up two strike outs with a fastball that was consistently hitting 95.9 mph.

Travinksi, who finished 3-of-4, scored four runs and had two RBI while batting cleanup, combined with second baseman Josh Pearson, Jones, and fifth-year senior transfer Mac Bingham from Arizona – LSU’s No. 5, 6 and 7 hitters, respectively, for nine of LSU’s 12 hits and seven of its 11 runs.

LSU All-American third baseman Tommy White was 0-for-4 with one RBI and scored one run.

Johnson said he was not surprised by VMI’s strong offensive performance, and he also said that LSU is going to win a lot of games this year 4-1 because of its deep and solid pitching and it’s also going to need to win a lot of games 11-8.

“Any time your best hitter goes without a hit, and you still manage 12 hits and score 11 runs, that’s solid,” Johnson said.

As for VMI, Johnson said, “This is not a surprise. We knew this would be a hard game. I expect them to continue to hit and have success as they go through the season.”

In all, LSU used six pitchers with Nate Ackenhausen picking up the win and Jump getting the save. Ackenhausen pitched three innings, gave up three hits and three runs (two earned), walked two and struck out six. He threw a total of 60 pitches before he tired, Johnson said, and was relieved by Gavin Guidry.

“I think Nate responded great,” Johnson said. “I think I’ve used this phrase before – I trust Nate with my life. You know, we put our season on the line with him in the College World Series last year in that elimination game against Tennessee, asked him to start when we needed it and he hadn’t started all year and he went out there and threw six shutout innings against one of the best offensive teams in college baseball.

“On this first day of the season, you want guys that can control their heartbeat. Nate does that,” he said.

LSU plays Central Arkansas at 1 PM on Saturday at Alex Box Stadium.

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Todd Horne

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