Mainieri settles on lineup for Houston College Classic

Jonathan Mailhes

Over the course of LSU’s first nine games of the year, the Tigers trotted out nine different lineups. Head coach Paul Mainieri hopes that the ninth one is the one that sticks.

Ahead of Wednesday’s midweek game against Louisiana Tech, Mainieri announced that the lineup he’ll use against the Bulldogs will be the same one used in the Houston College Classic this weekend.

The lineup goes like this: Zack Mathis leading off and playing third base, Alex Milazzo catching and hitting second, Cade Beloso at first base, Daniel Cabrera playing right field and hitting cleanup, Saul Garza designated hitting, Cade Doughty at second base, Giovanni DiGiacomo in center field, Maurice Hampton in left field, and Collier Cranford at shortstop.

In its debut, lucky lineup number nine scored seven runs off 11 hits with six RBI in a 7-1 victory. Six of the seven runs came in the first three innings.

“I wish we would have played all the way through all nine innings,” Mainieri said. “But we got off to a big lead early…sometimes the fact we didn’t score more runs is not indicative that we weren’t playing good offense. I think it was a good offensive night for us in a lot of ways.”

Wednesday was the debut for this specific lineup combination, but it was the third game in a row Mathis hit leadoff for the Tigers. That seems to be working well, as over that stretch Mathis is 6 for 11 and LSU has scored 23 total runs.

“I like it, it flows well,” Mathis said. “In the past two games we’ve scored 17 runs.”

The lineup will be tested this weekend when the Tigers face off against Texas, Baylor, and Oklahoma in Minute Maid Park, the first real challenge LSU (6-3) will face this year.

Mathis isn’t worried though. He’s obsessed with hitting and can’t wait to test his skills in a big-league park. The left-handed hitters’s goal is to try to park a ball into the upper decks in right field and if he can manage it, into the Crawford Boxes in left field.

“I’m excited to go out and play in a big league stadium,” Mathis said. “I heard the ball flies out there, so I’ll just put it up in the air and see where it goes.”

Friday night’s game against the 9-0 Longhorns will be the seventh game between the two schools in the last three years. The Tigers won 2018’s three-game set in Baton Rouge 2-1 but were swept in last year’s series in Austin.

Texas and LSU both have six national championships, tied for second-most in Division I. The Longhorns lead the all-time series between the two schools 25-12-1.

“Anytime it’s Texas-LSU, you know that’s going to get people excited,” Mainieri said. “I would expect it to be a huge crowd there. Last year we had a tough time over there in Austin, the year before we won the series here. It’d be nice to even out the last three years. Football beat them, basketball beat them, now it’s our turn to take out shot.”

LSU and Baylor last met in 2017’s Houston College Classic, the last time LSU participated in the series. The Tigers won that game, their only win in that year’s trip to Houston.

The Bears are currently 5-3 on the year after dropping last weekend’s series against Oral Roberts.

The Tigers have not played Oklahoma since the 2013 Baton Rouge Super Regional. LSU won the series in two games after winning a 2-0 pitcher’s duel between Aaron Nola and Jonathan Gray before beating the Sooners 11-1 in game two.

This year the Sooners are 7-2, having only lost their season opener against Virginia and the final game of a four-game back to back doubleheader against Illinois State.

“It’s going to be awesome,” redshirt sophomore pitcher Nick Storz said. “It’s a challenge for everybody on this team and we’re looking forward to it. There’s going to be some good competition and I think we’re going to rise to the occasion.”

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