Tigers held to two hits in midweek loss
By JAMES MORAN
Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Jake Latz’s LSU career officially began with a 90 mph fastball missing high to McNeese State leadoff man Ricky Ramirez. Five pitches later, he fanned Ramirez with a 3-2 heater to record his first collegiate out.
The redshirt-freshman lefty’s walked off the mound to a warm reception from the sparse collection of patrons at Alex Box Stadium having allowed two runs and recorded four outs.
Latz took the loss for the almost lethargic-seeming LSU club that couldn’t solve Cowboy left-hander Austin Sanders and got two-hit en route to dropping an uncompetitive 7-0 result to the in-state visitors on Tuesday night.
“There’s not much really to say about tonight,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We got whipped in every aspect of the game. Hitting, pitching, coaching, everything there was to be. They played great, you have to give credit to McNeese. We couldn’t have played any worst.”
Tuesday’s contest marks McNeese State’s first win in Baton Rouge since 1994. It was also the first time LSU has been shut out by a non-conference foe since Appalachian State blanked the Tigers in 2012.
LSU’s pitching staff only recorded one clean inning and allowed McNeese State to score a single run in seven of nine trips to bat.
“It was just a total breakdown tonight,” Mainieri said. “Just a terrible night for us and a great night for McNeese. All you can do is close the book on this one and get ready for tomorrow.”
“I felt like I was ready to play tonight,” shortstop Kramer Robertson said. “Obviously, the score says otherwise.”
The final line likely wasn’t what Latz had in mind for a highly-anticipated debut more than a calendar year in the making.
Latz fanned three and induced a popup around allowing a solo home run in the first inning. His fastball sat at 90 mph and touched 91 in that opening frame. He mixed in two curveballs and a changeup among the 15 pitches.
“I’m just disappointed that I let my team down mostly,” Latz said. “A starting pitcher is supposed to go out there and give the guys a boost and have a good start. I felt like once I came out of the game it kind of set the tone for the rest of the game. And I feel bad about that.”
The second inning was a different story as Latz fell behind in counts and the radar gun indicated a slight dip in velocity.
He allowed a sharp single and a double to put two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Bryan King’s sacrifice fly to center brought home a run and Latz issued a five-pitch walk before Mainieri lifted him for reliever Doug Norman.
Latz finished the night having allowed three baserunners with a pair of strikeouts. He threw 36 pitches, 20 of which were for strikes.
“It was great,” Latz said of returning to live competition. “Next time, hopefully, is better.”
Meanwhile, it was McNeese State’s southpaw that managed to steal the show. Sanders, who worked off a fastball in the low-to-mid 80s and a looping hook, held LSU hitless through the first five innings. He’s not beaten UL-Lafayette, Houston and LSU in successive starts.
Freshman outfielder Antoine Duplantis broke up the no-hitter with a leadoff single to left in the sixth that extended his hitting streak to seven games. Greg Deichmann got hit by a pitch later in the inning, but Beau Jordan popped up and Jordan Romero grounded to short to extinguish the threat.
“He didn’t throw very hard, but we didn’t make an adjustment tonight,” Robertson said. “Everybody was out in front of things and he just got us out on our front foot a lot.”
Sanders left after six-plus innings of one-hit ball after issuing back-to-back walks to begin the seventh. Reliever Trent Fontenot got Duplantis to fly to left with runners on second and third to keep the shutout intact.
Right-handed reliever Riley Smith returned from a prolonged bout with shoulder soreness to work the ninth inning. He promptly ceded back-to-back singles and issued a walk to load the bases. He allowed a run but escaped further trouble thanks to a 5-3-2 double play.
The Tigers will be back in action Wednesday night against Grambling. Mainieri hadn’t yet decided who will start that game.