By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU’s maddeningly up-and-down campaign in midweek games ended on a definite high note.
Greg Deichmann pulverized his 17th home run of the season, the most by an LSU player since Matt Gaudet hit 19 in 2010, and Todd Peterson allowed one run over a career-high five innings in his starting audition as the Tigers hammered Northwestern State 9-3 at Alex Box Stadium on Tuesday night.
LSU pounded out 14 hits in a balanced effort offensively, but the story of the night was Peterson. He allowed four hits and walked one while striking out six, a career high, and did it all in an economic 59 pitches (39 strikes).
“I thought Peterson was really good,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Very efficient. He threw a lot of strikes. I’m disappointed in the misplay on the one bunt … but the more mound time that he gets, the better he’ll continue to get. I was very pleased. Thought he showed very well for himself.”
Mainieri said he was going to pull Peterson after 60 pitches one way or the other with designs on having him available for Saturday’s regular-season finale against Mississippi State. His efficiency made for an impressive audition to be LSU’s fourth starter – -should they need one — this postseason.
“I feel great, but at the end of the day that’s Coach Mainieri’s call,” Peterson said. “Whether he has me as a fourth starter or out of the bullpen, I mean, I’m just going to go out there and compete.”
Kramer Robertson led the way with four hits, including a solo home run in the eighth inning, his sixth of the season. He also had two doubles and scored three runs along the way. Cole Freeman, Nick Coomes and Mike Papierski also had multi-hit nights.
The victory improves LSU to 36-17 overall and the Tigers will finish at 8-6 in midweek games. Northwestern State dropped to 20-31 with the defeat.
“We felt like it was important to come out and get this midweek win,” Robertson said. “Both for our RPI and to go into this weekend feeling good about ourselves. And to do it in the fashion that we did, swinging the bats really well throughout the lineup, that’s really positive. I like where we’re at right now. I feel like the Tigers are rolling.”
Peterson got off to a strong start, striking out two in the first inning, and Deichmann staked him to a lead minutes later. With a runner on third and two outs, Deichmann lashed a hanging 3-2 curveball into the right-field bleachers for a two-run home run.
The blast measured it as the hardest ball Deichmann has hit all season — and that’s saying something. TrackMan measured an exit velocity of 114.6 mph, the highest registered by any LSU player this season.
Northwestern State got on the board with back-to-back two-out doubles in the top of the third inning. David Fry drove in the run with a long double to deep right-center field. Peterson then picked up a strikeout to leave the tying run in scoring position.
LSU answered right back thanks to a leadoff double from Robertson and some unselfish at-bats and aggressive base running.
Freeman laid down a sacrifice bunt and reached when the catcher couldn’t field it. Antoine Duplantis then lifted a sac fly to deep center. Freeman swiped second base and Coomes came through with a two-out RBI single to extend the lead to 4-1.
The red-hot bottom of the order got in on the fun in the fourth. Papierski singled to left, his second hit in as many at-bats. Zach Watson then unloaded on a two-run home run to the deepest part of left-center field, his fourth of the season, to put LSU ahead 6-1.
Peterson began his fifth and final inning in style with back-to-back strikeouts. He then threw away a bunt to put a runner in scoring position, but popped up Fry on the infield to prevent his mistake from doing damage.
Once Peterson departed, Northwestern State climbed back into the game thanks to a prodigious long ball of their own. Austin Townsend cranked a two-run home run off Will Reese to the back row of the right-field bleachers to pull the Demons within three runs.
LSU got those runs back in the bottom of the inning. Robertson led off with a double. Duplantis doubled him home with a two-out bullet off the base of the wall in right and scored on a little league home run as two different Demons threw the ball away.
With the midweek slate in the books, LSU will hit the road to close out the Southeastern Conference season. The Tigers will take on Mississippi State in Starkville in a Thursday-Saturday series with the SEC West title hanging in the balance.