By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
THIBODAUX, La. — An irate Paul Mainieri came sprinting out of the visitor’s dugout in the first inning of LSU’s 9-4 victory at Nicholls State Wednesday night.
Bryce Jordan had just taken a fluttering breaking ball off his front shoulder with the bases loaded and one out. Only instead of everyone advancing, the home plate umpire ruled the human baseball magnet hadn’t made any effort to get out of the way.
“He was jumping out of the way of the ball,” Mainieri screamed, loud enough for the entirety of the the capacity crowd in attendance at Ray Didier Field to hear. “Everyone saw that.”
The umpire didn’t change his mind and the at-bat continued.
“I didn’t think I leaned in, but thank God he called it,” Jordan said.
Two pitches later, Jordan lashed a two-run double down the right field line to put LSU (6-2) on top as part of a three-run first.
Brothers Bryce (2-3) and Beau Jordan (1-4) drove in four runs and table-setters Kramer Robertson, Jake Fraley and Cole Freeman scored twice apiece to power the Tigers past Nicholls State (4-6) on a nippy evening on the bayou.
“Those two Jordan boys, it’s almost hard to separate them when you talk about them,” Mainieri said. “They’re the same kind of fierce competitors. They almost will their team to win. When you look at them physically or grade out their tools, nothing really jumps out to you, but they just find a way to beat you.”
Again staked to an early lead, starter Austin Bain allowed a leadoff walk to come around to score in the first inning before getting pulled after just two frames. He allowed four hits and that free pass before getting the hook.
“Austin struggled there in the first inning after we gave him a 3-0 lead,” Mainieri said. “His command wasn’t great and they were hitting a lot of balls hard. I just felt like we needed to make a change and just change the momentum of the game.”
Mainieri turned the ball over to Alden Cartwright, who came on and promptly retired seven of the first men he faced.
The junior right-hander stranded the bases loaded in the fifth to complete three scoreless innings of relief and pick up the victory. He continued to put up zeroes as LSU extended its lead with six runs in the middle three innings.
“I just knew all I had to come in and throw strikes,” Cartwright (2-0) said. “I knew our offense was going to score runs. It was a close game when I came in. I just had to give them some breathing room to put the game out of reach and they did.”
“Alden took control of the game and settled everybody down,” Mainieri said. “Then we were able to tack on right after that. I just thought that was the key to the game.”
Freeman (3-for-5) led off the fourth with a ringing double to left to begin another three-run inning. He scored two batters later on one of three Colonel errors and the Jordan brothers brought home an additional run each a fielders choice by Beau and a sacrifice fly by Bryce.
Greg Deichmann (2-for-3) chopped a ball over the first base bag to begin the fifth and raced all the way to third as the ball got to the corner. He came around to score one batter later on a sacrifice fly from O’Neal Lochridge.
Freeman followed with a single and scored two batters later on an RBI triple to the right-center field gap by Fraley (2-for-4, 2 BB). LSU’s final run of the evening scored on a strikeout that got away from the catcher to bring home an unearned run in the sixth.
“We did that well today,” Freeman said of LSU’s situational hitting. “It kind of kept them out of the game. After we scored the first three they came back and answered. We’ve had that happen before. We’re learning, and we’re realzing how big those runs really are.”
The unsung hero of the night was LSU’s new-look infield defense of Robertson at short, Freeman at second and Bryce Jordan at first.
The Tigers turned in just their second error-free performance of the year, with web gems coming from Freeman at second — he made a backhand snare behind the bag and jump hopped to throw the man out at first — and Jordan, who made a pick on a bullet in the first inning to limit the damage.
“I liked it,” Freeman said of the infield’s play. “We feel in sync even though it’s the first time we played at these positions in months. We feel good. Flying around talking to people and having fun.”
LSU will be action Friday night to begin a three-game series with Fordham at Alex Box Stadium.
– Antoine Duplantis (2-for-6) extended his hitting streak to eight games in a row to start his career.
– Mainieri announced his pitching rotation for this weekend’s three-game series against Fordham:
Friday: Jared Poche’ (1-0)
Saturday (game one): John Valek (2-0)
Saturday (game two): Alex Lange (1-0)