Zach Watson snapped out of a season-long power outage just in time for Southeastern Conference play.
Watson crushed a fastball deep into the left-field bleachers for his first home run of the season. Dating back to last season, his last dinger came in the Corvallis Regional, a drought of 17 games and 68 at-bats.
Watson and Antoine Duplantis each connected on two-run homers as LSU, playing with heavy hearts, crushed Texas Southern 16-5 at an emotional Alex Box Stadium on Wednesday night in the team’s final tune-up before Southeastern Conference play.
LSU’s assistant coached divvied up responsibilities like pitching changes, exchanging the lineup cards pre-game and addressing the media post game.
Paul Mainieri mostly watched from the dugout after the passing of his father, Demie, on Wednesday morning. A moment of silence was observed before the game.
“Very emotional for the whole team,” said Alan Dunn, who handled post-game interview’s in Mainieri’s stead. “That kid of changed the mood of the team, as you know, but the guys rallied. They compartmentalized and took care of business.”
“It was hard,” Watson said. “Thinking about if it was your father, knowing what he’s going through, it’s a tough time for him. I was really shocked when he showed up at the field. If my dad died, I don’t know if I’d be able to make it. For him to be here with the team, we knew we had to play for him.”
With the win, LSU finishes up a tough pre-conference slate at 12-5. The Tigers were 12-6 at this point a season ago. Those are the program’s worst records heading into SEC play since 2007 (12-7), Mainieri’s first season on the job.
LSU raced out to an early 6-0 thanks to the home runs from Duplantis and Watson in the first and second innings, respectively. Daniel Cabrera brought home another run with a triple into the right-field corner and scored on a sac fly from Cade Beloso.
The home run was just part of a monster night for Watson. He finished 4-for-4 with three RBI and three runs scored. He also drew a walk in addition to the first four-hit game of his career.
Teammates had been giving Watson a hard time of late as he searched for that first home run. Everyone in the starting lineup besides Watson and Hal Hughes had at least one coming into Wednesday night.
“We’ve been ripping him,” Cabrera said. “He said today, ‘If I don’t hit one today, I’m never going to hit one this year.’ The wind was blowing out like that. Once he gets one, he starts cruising though.”
“I knew it was coming,” Watson smiled. “I just didn’t know when.”
Clay Moffitt, making his first career start, allowed just two unearned runs over 2.2 innings of solid work to pick up the victory. He allowed three hits, struck out two and still has not allowed an earned run this season.
Texas Southern closed the gap to 6-3 after four innings, but that’s as close as they ever got. The Tigers poured on 10 runs over the next three innings despite running into several outs on the base paths.
LSU will practice Thursday before Kentucky comes to town for a series set to begin Friday night. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.