Observations: Purple defeats Gold 7-3 in PG-WS opener

GAME ONE OBSERVATIONS

Cosmo Clutch: Nobody had a better opening night at the Purple-Gold World Series than junior second basemanKramer Robertson, who finished 2-for-4 with three RBI. Up with two men in scoring position and two outs in the second, Robertson turned on an 0-2 fastball and drove a two-run double over the left fielder’s head to break a scoreless tie. Then, with the game tied 3-3 in the fifth, Robertson again turned on an inside fastball and roped an RBI double to left to put the purple team ahead 4-3 en route to a 7-3 win. “These games matter a lot to us because there’s a lot of trash talking and your pride is at stake,” Robertson said. “We all take this pretty seriously, so it felt good to come up in a big spot and help my team.”

Hot start: True freshman right-hander Caleb Gilbert started Wednesday’s opener for the gold team and worked an impressive first inning. Pumping a consistently 93-94 mph heater — it touched 95 mph once — with good tailing action, he allowed just an infield single and picked up a swinging strikeout in a scoreless first. However, he was touched up for three earned runs over his next two innings as his fastball velocity dropped down to around 90-91 mph. Paul Mainieri attributed the spike and subsequent dip in velocity to Gilbert being excited and “maxing out” in the opening frame,  but he was left feeling encouraged by Gilbert’s potential as a short reliever come spring. “He’s been 91 to 93 all fall and all of the sudden he was at 94-95,” Mainieri said, “which was good to see because if I want to use him as a relief pitcher for just one inning, it shows he’s got a little bit more in the tank.”

Soft tossin’: Living at the polar opposite end of the velocity spectrum is Akron transfer John Valek III, who started for the purple squad on Wednesday night. Working off a fastball that topped out at 85 mph, a changeup and a 70ish mph slurve, the senior southpaw tossed two hitless innings before being chased during a three-run third inning. It’s not difficult to envision a lefty like Valek fashioning himself some type of role on this righty-heavy pitching staff. “It’s a great experience for me, with this being my first real time in a game situation with the teams split up under the lights,” Valek said. “With the experience I just had out there, I’m really excited for next season. Pitching here is second to none.”

The Flash: If there’s a faster player on LSU’s baseball team faster than Lafayette native and true freshman Antoine Duplantis, Les Miles might come calling to see if the speedster wants to come return some kicks. Duplantis flew around the bases for a two-run standup triple on a decently-hit fly ball that touched down in the left-center field gap off Valek. “I loved Antoine Duplantis’ swing on the two-run triple to left,” Mainieri said. “He shifted it into another gear going from second to third.”

Paying off: Sticking with the batting stance adjustment recommended by hitting coach Andy Cannizaro earlier this fall, catcher Mike Papierski continued to swing a hot bat. He finished the first game with two line-drive single and a ringing RBI double in four at-bats.

Injury news: Mainieri confirmed that left-hander Jake Latz went for a third opinion on his pitching elbow Wednesday after suffering another setback, but didn’t have any additional details to share. Two doctors have previously recommended surgery for the Illinois native.

About James Moran 1377 Articles
James Moran was Editor of Tiger Rag from August 2018 to October 2019. He previously served as the associate editor since 2014. He is a graduate of the LSU Manship School of Journalism.

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