Runs were tough to come by on a cold, misty night, and the first midweek game of the season fittingly came down to a battle of the bullpens.
LSU’s crew of veteran arms didn’t blink.
Matt Beck, Devin Fontenot and Todd Peterson locked Southeastern down for five scoreless innings and LSU scratched out runs in the seventh and eighth innings to escape with a 6-5 win at Alex Box Stadium on Tuesday night.
“It was not a stellar offensive night by any strect of the imagination,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Fortunately our bullpen came in and did a terrific job for us. It was good we eked out a victory, although it was hardly a thing of beauty.”
Southeastern led 5-4 heading into the seventh-inning stretch when an unlikely source of inspiration brought LSU’s offense back to life: Josh Smith getting drilled in the face with an arrant pitch.
Trainer Cory Couture administered a concussion test, and Smith stayed in the game. He moved to third base on an error and scored the tying run on a ground ball by Antoine Duplantis.
“When he got hit in the mouth I saw our whole season go down the drain,” Mainieri said. “He took one right in the mouth. His mouth is bloody and he’s got a big, fat lip.”
Unhappy with the at-bats from the middle of his order, Mainieri turned to his bench to spark the winning rally.
“I wasn’t real pleased with the at-bats the other guys were having, in all honestly,” Mainieri said. “Some of them weren’t swinging the bat all that great, and I though let’s give someone else a chance.”
Giovanni DiGiacomo led off the eighth inning with a pinch-hit single to left field. The speedy freshman stole second base on a hit-and-run gone array.
Chris Reid, who came off the bench and swung through the first pitch, laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving the go-ahead run to third. Brock Mathis looped the go-ahead single over the drawn-in infield.
“I knew my situation,” Mathis said. “Reid did a phenomenal job with the bunt and Gio is fast as lightning. As far as my hit going down, I knew the infield was in and I was going to try to launch one. I’m just glad I got to help the team win.”
The job wasn’t done yet as Peterson still had to face the heart of the Southeastern order protecting a one-run lead.
A noticeably-animated Peterson took the mound firing 98 mph heat, a velocity he hadn’t reached in his first two collegiate seasons.
Apparently it was simple as being extra amped up by the sight of Smith getting hit in the face. It was a spark for the entire team, but teammates recall seeing Peterson practically bouncing off the ceiling.
“We had a few guys get fired up, Todd Peterson being one,” Reid said. “He’s always fired up. He was screaming and kicking and whatnot. It definitely energized us. Whenever one of your key leaders takes a shot like that in the mouth … Josh, being the dog that he is, we knew he’d be good. You’d have to kill the guy to get him out of the game.”
“When Josh got hit in the mouth, Todd was like the Energizer Bunny,: Mathis added. “Something just clicked in his system where he was going to come out and throw it 100 miles an hour. Todd is one of those guys that’s an absolute leader, an absolute competitor and an absolute winner.”
With the victory, LSU improves to 4-0 on the young season. It wouldn’t have gotten there without 6.1 innings of one-run ball out of a quartet of relievers.
They were called into action early as Cole Henry couldn’t replicate the sterling debuts of Landon Marceaux and Jaden Hill. Henry struggled to command his fastball and spotty defense behind him led to an inflated pitch count.
Already trailing 4-3, Henry was pulled after loading the bases in the third inning. He was tagged for four runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks. The situation could’ve been considerably worse had Southeastern not stranded the bases loaded in the first and third frames.
LSU will have two days off before beginning a series with Bryant on Friday night. Wednesday’s game at Northwestern State has been postponed due to inclement weather and field conditions.