Maybe it was just a natural progression at the plate.
In Friday night’s series opener against Eastern Kentucky, LSU mounted three hits and got shut out 2-0. On Saturday, the Tigers had six well-timed hits and evened the series with a 6-3 win.
And then on Sunday, the LSU offense blew the doors off EKU, scoring all of its runs in the first four innings cruising to a 10-2 victory to take the series in Alex Box Stadium.
“It was a good way to finish off a weekend,” LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said. “We played a pretty solid game in ever aspect.”
Cade Beloso led the Tigers at the plate with a 3 for 3 day which included three RBI, a walk, and a run scored. Beloso’s two-run double in the third inning helped break the game open.
“I had good early work today and good batting practice,” Beloso said. “I felt good at the plate and I was seeing off-speed well, so I was just trying to do my job on this team and drive in runs.”
LSU starting pitcher AJ Labas had a promising outing, throwing seven innings and allowing two runs (both earned) off four hits with just one walk and six strikeouts.
“My fastball location and my changeup what really was working for me today,” Labas said. “I was able to throw my changeup in whatever count and I was able to throw my fastball to either side of the plate.”
Labas’ head coach agrees with his self-assessment.
“He just pitched like he does,” Mainieri said. “Three pitches for strikes, he works the inside and outside corner, keeps the ball down, keeps them off balance. I don’t know how many strikeouts he had but it seemed like most of his strikeouts were on changeups or sliders. He’s like a 10-year Major League veteran out there with the way he pitches. He’s just very calm and works the zone.”
Labas’ performance comes off the heels of Landon Marceaux’s career outing Saturday in which he pitched eighth shutout innings with four runs allowed and six strikeouts.
“Two days in a row we’ve had outstanding performances,” Mainieri said. “Not only successful, but efficient, which allowed them to pitch deep into the game. That helps out your bullpen a lot, when your starting pitchers go that deep.”
LSU (5-3) opened the game with a pair of runs in the first inning after Alex Milazzo reached base on a fielder’s choice and Daniel Cabrera hit a single to right. Milazzo advanced to third on the single and scored on a sacrifice fly from Saul Garza. Cabrera then stole second and came around to score on a single from Beloso to left.
The Tigers broke the dam open in the third inning, scoring seven runs off five hits and an error, batting around in the process. LSU added another run the next inning off a double error play to make it an even 10-0.
“That was definitely our most complete game,” Beloso said. “Just domination from start to finish. It started with AJ going out there and pounding the zone like he always does. And then getting on base with what we do as hitters. I think we’ve finally shown what we’re capable of as hitters and we’re capable of doing at the plate today. We showed discipline all day and put balls in play with runners in scoring position. That’s all we can ask for.”
EKU (4-2) broke the shutout in the sixth inning when a leadoff walk and a one-out single came around to score off a double from catcher A.J. Lewis.
There was a scary moment in the bottom of the seventh when LSU sophomore second baseman Gavin Dugas was hit in the head by a pitch. Dugas immediately lay still on the ground in the batters’ box. He stayed there for a few minutes while he was evaluated and eventually helped up by LSU athletic trainer Cory Couture. Once on his feet, Dugas was able to walk off the field on his own.
Fortunately, early returns indicate that there is no injury beyond a potential concussion for Dugas.
“It was scary, but it got all helmet so there’s no fractures in the face or anything like that,” Mainieri said. “He’s showing a little bit of concussion symptoms right now, so they’re going to monitor him very closely.”
LSU is back in action Wednesday night at 6:30 in Alex Box Stadium against Louisiana Tech before its big weekend in the Shriner Hospitals for Children College Classic in Houston’s Minute Maid Park.
The Tigers play Texas (8-0) Friday at 7 p.m., Baylor (4-3) Saturday at 3 p.m. and Oklahoma (7-2) Sunday at 11 a.m.
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