LSU bats were in a deep freeze for the first four innings Monday night against Louisiana Tech.
And they weren’t.
What started as a flicker in the Tigers’ one-run, three-hit fifth inning raged into a five-alarm fire in a five-run sixth featuring a back-to-back grand slam homer and a solo homer as LSU roared back from a 5-1 deficit for a 16-7 victory in Alex Box Stadium.
Tigers’ left fielder Gavin Dugas broke his 0 for 6 start to the 2021 season by hammering Bulldogs’ reliever Cade Gibson’s first pitch into the left field stands for a game-tying grand slam at 6-6.
“Right before I went to plate, (LSU) Coach (Paul Manieri) said, `You win this fight, you win your battle,’ “ Dugas said. “It’s something we kind of talked about before the game started. In my mind when I took that swing, I instantly knew I won my battle, I won that pitch.”
Freshman third baseman Jordan Thompson, taking the advice of Tigers’ hitting coach Eddie Smith to “take your hacks” off new Tech reliever Tyler Follis, followed Dugas with the first hit of his career, a solo homer for a 7-6 lead,
From there, the walls caved on Louisiana Tech. Mainieri’s Tigers were well on their way to improving their record to 2-1 after the opening weekend of the season before heading to Louisiana-Lafayette for a 6 p.m. game Wednesday night.
“Once somebody comes through with a big hit, it loosens up the whole team,” Mainieri said. “Dugas came through with that big swing and lifted a lot of pressure off the shoulders of our players. After that, they played loosey-goosey and let it rip.”
LSU scored 15 runs off 12 hits in their final four at-bats. Mainieri was able to play 20 players, including four pitchers. Ten different Tigers collected hits, led by Dugas’ six RBIs and freshman right fielder Dylan Crews going 3-for-5 with two RBIs and his second homer of the season.
An unsung hero for the Tigers was freshman reliever Javen Coleman, who somehow had to cool Tech bats that tattooed LSU redshirt junior starter AJ Labas in his feast or famine 2021 first start. Labas, who is part of LSU’s weekend starting rotation, struck out eight in 3.1 innings but allowed five runs on 11 hits including two homers and a triple.
Even after he was battered in the Bulldogs’ third inning for four runs on seven hits, Mainieri brought Labas back out in the Tech fourth. He lasted three batters, the latter two tagging him for a homer and a single before Mainieri finally gave him the hook.
Coleman, a Richmond, Texas home-schooled left-hander, was absolutely chill in his college debut.
In 3.2 innings, Coleman’s only mistake was allowing a solo homer to Tech third baseman Hunter Wells in sixth. Otherwise, he struck out seven, walked one and deservedly got credit for his first college victory.
“I was definitely locked in,” Coleman said. “I was like, `Mow ‘em down, go right at ‘em, don’t let up.’ I just go in there, have some swagger, throw it at ‘em and see what happens.”