Oral Roberts came into LSU’s Alex Box Stadium Friday afternoon having been shutout three days prior on three hits by Wichita State.
On top of that, the Golden Eagles were facing Tigers’ ace and projected high-round MLB draft choice Jaden Hill, who hadn’t allowed a run in 10 innings of work in his three previous outings.
None of that mattered, though, when Oral Roberts’ offense went right through Hill and five of LSU’s pitchers for a runaway 22-7 victory in the opening game of a three-game weekend series.
The two teams meet again Saturday at 3 p.m.
“I’ve had more fun days at the ballpark,” LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri said. “This game, and I’ve been in it a long time, never seems to surprise me. I told the kids just when you think you’ve got this game figured out it will jump up and bite you.”
No. 8 LSU (8-2) brought in a seven-game win streak with Hill taking his usual turn in the rotation where he’s expected to serve as the Tigers’ catalyst as their Friday night starter.
Hill (2-1) didn’t make it out of the first inning. He faced nine batters, allowing five hits and two walks and was tagged for eight earned runs.
Oral Roberts (3-6) sent 12 batters to the plate and took an eye-opening eight run lead on six hits. The first seven batters reached base safely until Hill got his only out in his appearance which lasted 29 pitches.
Second baseman Ryan Cash (3-for-4, 4 2 2Bs, 4 RBIs) singled and doubled in the inning and drove in four runs, including a bases-loaded double that made it 8-0.
Hill left with an inflated 6.97 ERA in favor of freshman reliever Theo Millas.
“They were onto his fastball,” Mainieri said of ORU, which had 18 hits against seven different LSU pitchers. “They were very aggressive. They scouted him and knew he comes right after people. You have to tip your hat to them. They put the ball in play, and they found some holes. When he was forced to go to his off-speed pitches, he didn’t really have great command of them, and it was just one of those outings.”
LSU cut into that deficit, scoring three times in its half of the first with Gavin Dugas (2 of 4, RBI) singling in a run.
The Tigers did additional damage in the second inning, knocking ORU starter James Notary out of the game, with four runs to close it to 8-7.
First baseman Tre’ Morgan (2 of 3, 3 RBIs) pulled his team to within a run with a bases-loaded double and but catcher Alex Milazzo flew out to end the inning with Jordan Thompson at second base.
“Our guys didn’t give up,” Mainieri said.
ORU pitcher Evan Kowalski (1-0) slowed down LSU’s offense with seven innings of scoreless relief. He allowed two hits, walked one and struck out five.
Millas did a nice job of keeping ORU off the scoreboard until tiring with a career-long outing in the fourth inning, giving way to Ma’Khail Hilliard.
The Eagles sent 16 batters to the plate against Millas, Hilliard and Brandon Kaminer to score 11 runs on nine hits and put the game out of reach, 19-7.
Third baseman Adam Oviedo (2 of 4, 3 RBIs) singled in a run and first baseman Caleb Denny (2 of 5, 6 RBIs) drove in four runs during the inning with a pair of 2-run singles.
“It’s just the most humbling game there is,” Mainieri said. “It’s amazing how one day you can play so well and feel like you’re making enormous progress and then all of a sudden, everything goes south on you. I tell the players you’re never as good as you think you are and you’re never as bad as you think you are. That’s how this sport is designed. It can humble you in a second and can be exhilarating the next day.”