No. 2 LSU Baseball Looking To Keep Offense Rolling in Second Game Against Central Arkansas Today

Tommy White
Tommy White PHOTO By Jonathan Mailhes

LSU baseball is coming off one of the best offensive performances in school history and looking to continue that success at the plate in its rematch with Central Arkansas.

When LSU first played Central Arkansas on Saturday, it was locked in a defensive duel in an eventual 2-0 win. LSU’s offense struggled to hit the Bears’ pitching and had just six hits in the game. Stiff winds blowing in and cold weather wreaked havoc on hitting conditions for both teams.

But against VMI on Sunday, LSU tied the school record for most hits in a game with 27 and set the record for most singles with 20 in a 27-5 win. The games were called in the seventh inning thanks to the run-rule.

Freshman Steven Milam batted in the leadoff spot for LSU after not getting an at bat in the season opener. He was one of the few bright spots for LSU’s offense in the first game against the Bears.

He recorded one of LSU’s two RBI against Central Arkansas and reached base in all his plate appearances to earn the move into the leadoff position. Milam, a switch hitter, had six at bats on Sunday and had four hits and three RBI. After two games played, he’s batting .714 with an on base percentage of .800.

“[Milam] is really improved, and he’s been an on base machine,” Jay Johnson said. “Great feel for the game. Like he knows what needs to be done when it needs to be done and he really has improved from a swinging standpoint.”

Sophomore catcher Brady Neal had his best game of the young season against VMI on Sunday as well. He had a hit in each of his three plate appearances and recorded a game-leading six RBI thanks to his grand slam in the third inning. It was his first homerun since LSU’s game against Tennessee on March 31 last year. He had just three homeruns and 9 RBI last year after a back injury forced him to miss the second half of the season.

“I think [Neal] is one of our best players to be honest with you,” Johnson said. “I felt that way even last year as a freshman on that team. There’s a learning curve obviously coming in to this level and the injury kind of took him out of that. It took him out about half of the fall, so we had to be pretty aggressive with some development stuff. He can only play defense one day, can only hit one day, those types of things. He stuck with it, he’s got ability and most importantly he really believes in himself.”

If LSU wants a repeat of its offensive performance, it’ll have to get though a stout Central Arkansas defense. The Bears have started the season 1-2, but their pitching has done well in each of their games. They have yet to give up more than three runs in a game despite playing LSU and a VMI team that scored 13 runs in two games against LSU.

The Tigers’ pitching has improved since its opening day blunders and held Central Arkansas scoreless in their first matchup. The last two starting pitchers for LSU, Luke Holman and Javen Coleman, gave up a combined five hits and no runs in 8.1 innings pitched. They also combined for 13 strikeouts. LSU as a team has given up just seven hits in the last two games after surrendering 11 hits to VMI on opening day. 

“I don’t think we were settled in per say on Friday,” Johnson said. “As much as we address it and talk about it and do some mental skills things to help them with it. Some guys did great and other guys left a little bit to be desired. And some are talented enough that they were able to work through it.”

Johnson has yet to name a starting pitcher for Monday’s rematch with Central Arkansas, but said he is confident in the players he has available.

“We don’t yet [have a starting pitcher],” Johnson said. “I have a grouping of I think I counted nine guys available that I feel good about. I need to look at, I know we just played them, Central Arkansas a little bit more. About where they’re at and who fits at different times.”

LSU’s game against Central Arkansas is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. from Alex Box Stadium. After playing the Bears, LSU will have a few days off before its next game on Thursday, Feb. 22 against Northern Illinois. That game is also scheduled to start 2 p.m.

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