LSU homers four times, blasts Cincinnati 12-4 to complete weekend sweep
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Facing a soft-tossing rookie southpaw in Sunday’s series finale against Cincinnati, Paul Mainieri wanted to inject some extra right-handed pop into a lineup that had mustered just four extra-base hits in the season’s first two games.
It wasn’t until watching a movie on the couch Saturday night with his wife, Karen, that Mainieri decided to add Bryce Adams into that mix. By day’s end the LSU coach was awfully glad he did.
Adams, O’Neal Lochridge and Jordan Romero each mashed their first career home runs in their first career starts and drove in a combined nine runs to support senior lefty John Valek, who scattered four runs (two earned) over 5.2 innings to earn the victory in his Tiger debut as LSU (3-0) battered Cincinnati (0-3) 12-4 to secure an opening weekend sweep at Alex Box Stadium.
“I always like to get guys into the games the first weekend because they’ve been playing every day in inter-squad games just like the starting players,” Mainieri said. “You like to let them get their first taste of Division I college baseball that first weekend. It was great to see several of them took advantage of their first opportunity.”
Repeatedly presented with scoring opportunities by an erratic Bearcat pitching staff that issued nine walks and hit three batters on the afternoon, LSU came to bat in the fourth inning tied 2-2 after allowing a pair of unearned runs created by a Cole Freeman error in the first.
That’s when the fireworks began.
Antoine Duplantis reached on an error to begin the inning and Lochridge promptly followed with a towering two-run blast down the left field line punctuated by what could best be described as a watered-down version of Sammy Sosa’s signature skip hop down the first base line.
“All my teammates were laughing,” Lochridge said. “They were saying ‘dude, you pimped it,’ but I didn’t pimp it on purpose. What happened is I hit it, and I got nervous it was going to hook foul, so I was just hopping and saying stay fair, stay fair. By the luck of God it stayed fair.”
“He’s got a lot of lightning in that bat,” Mainieri said of the Lafayette native. “When he hits em good, he hits em as far as anybody.”
Two unsuccessful stolen base prevented further damage in the frame, but Valek (1-0), having gotten over some first inning jitters, set down the side in order in the top half of the fifth with two of his seven strikeouts (all swinging) to allow his offense to get right back to work.
“I was trying to calm myself down in warm-ups, but you never know how you’re going to feel until you’re actually out there on the mound,” Valek said. “That first inning, I was going a little bit too fast, but once I got in the dugout and took a breather, the rest of the game I felt fine.”
Center fielder Jake Fraley (3-for-4, 3 R) led off the inning with a triple down the line in right field before Beau Jordan got plunked and Romero walked to load the bases for Adams and send the Bearcats back to the bullpen.
Adams sat on a first-pitch fastball from freshman reliever Jack Bergen, and when he got it, he didn’t miss. The Tigers’ first grand slam of the season disappeared into the left field grandstands to break the game wide open at 8-2.
“I saw an opportunity, and I got the pitch I wanted and just put a good swing on it,” Adams said. “Being from here and growing up here going to hundreds of games — seeing people do what I did — it’s a dream come true.”
LSU sent nine men to the plate in that inning, stretching the lead to 9-2 on a RBI single from Freeman.
The Bearcats chased Valek with solo homers from Dan Wenzel and Woody Wallace in the ensuing at-bat, but LSU came with back-to-back blasts from Beau Jordan and Romero — the third and fourth Tigers to record their first career home runs on Sunday afternoon — in the bottom half of the sixth concluded the scoring.
– CF Jake Fraley (3-4) and SS Cole Freeman (2-3) were the only Tigers to hit safely in all three games this weekend.
– Mainieri gave true freshman Trey Dawson the day off after the rookie shortstop struggled through his first two career games at the plate (0-for-6, 4 K) and made an error Saturday. He pinch hit for Freeman in the eighth inning and struck out swinging.
– Bryce Jordan was hit by a pitch for the third time in as many games. His brother, Beau, was also among the three LSU players to be hit by a pitch Sunday as Bearcat pitching his eigth batters this weekend.
– RHP Riley Smith (shoulder) threw a bullpen session before the game Sunday. Mainieri said he’ll be the first pitcher out of the bullpen in Wednesday’s game at Lamar.
Feb. 24 @ Lamar (Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.)
LSU — So. RHP Austin Bain (2-3, 3.95 ERA, 54.2 IP, 23 BB, 56 SO in 2015)
Lamar — TBA