Southeastern Conference series wins are what matters at this point of the season, but LSU coach Paul Mainieri placed an added premium on not letting any more midweek games get away in hopes of bolstering an RPI languishing at No. 81 to begin the week.
With that in mind, it was nothing to stay sharp through a 43-minute rain delay and close out the kind of in-state win that hasn’t been automatic of late.
Zach Watson and Austin Bain launched back-to-back home runs in the third inning and AJ Labas worked five innings of one-run ball before the rains came. The bullpen took it from there as LSU defeated Nicholls State 10-1 at Alex Box Stadium on Tuesday night.
“It was a good, solid win tonight,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Labas was efficient and effective. He got us off to a good start.”
LSU (19-11) managed to take an early lead after Nicholls State lefty Bryan Taylor hit a batter and issued a walk to begin the second inning. The Tigers put on a hit-and-run and Bryce Jordan singled through the left side to score his brother, Beau. That was the first of a career-high four hits for Bryce.
“We came out with a plan,” Bryce Jordan said. “We wanted to hunt and fastball, and we had an enormous wind before the game started, so we felt like there was a chance to hit a couple out tonight.”
The back-to-back jacks began the third inning with two bangs for LSU, but the Tigers weren’t done. Daniel Cabrera doubled to left with two outs and Hunter Feduccia, who entered the game mired in a 3-for-31 slump, came through with a two-out RBI single.
Feduccia drove in another run on a sacrifice fly after the rain delay in the fifth, which is significant because he’d driven in just one run in the past 10 games entering Tuesday night.
“We’ve beaten that horse dead with Feduccia and we’ve worked with him,” Mainieri said. “Feduccia let it rip tonight … I though he played a good solid game and hit the ball in the clutch. That was very encouraging.”
Nicholls State (9-19) threatened to get back into the game against Labas in the fifth, but with rain falling from the sky, the freshman came up with the big pitch when he needed one.
A hit by pitch and a single to right-center field put Colonels on the corners with nobody out. Nicholls third baseman Brady Bell squared up a Labas offering, but Bain made a nifty play to his left and started a 4-6-3 double play. LSU gladly traded one run for two outs.
Nicholls responded with a bunt single and a ground-rule double to re-ignite the rally. A run certainly would’ve scored had the ball not bounded over the wall in left-center field, and Labas induced a shallow popup to end the inning. He scattered five hits and struck out two on the evening.
“I felt really good tonight, like my mechanics were there again,” Labas said. “Just that last inning I felt like my mechanics got away from me again. Each start I’m just building and building again trying to get back to where I was.”
Matt Beck and Todd Peterson came on for Labas and work a scoreless inning apiece coming out of the rain delay. Antoine Duplantis smoked a two-run double to the gap in right-center field in the bottom of the seventh that removed any remaining drama from the result.
“It was a nice win and a good tuneup as we get ready for a huge series in College Station this weekend,” Mainieri said.
LSU will depart headed west on Wednesday as it prepares to begin a three-game series at Texas A&M on Thursday night.