By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
There was plenty of thunder from both sides — and some lightning from Mother Nature — but it was a second-inning downpour that took the day.
LSU clubbed launched back-to-back home runs and batted around as part of a six-run second inning to out-muscle Lamar in a 10-4 slugfest that included five home runs between the two sides at Alex Box Stadium on Tuesday night.
The Cardinals hit three of those blasts in the first four innings, cutting the lead down to two runs, but LSU’s final four relievers allowed just one hit over the final 6.1 innings of the game to nail down the victory.
“At the end of the day, we ended up doing what we had to do against a team that was playing pretty well,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “So it was a good win for us, and I thought our bullpen was really key.”
The game began with thunder — figuratively. Lamar right fielder Cutter McDowell crushed Caleb Gilbert’s first offering off the base of the scoreboard in left field for a leadoff home run.
Not long after the rain came, a sun shower of sorts, forcing the tarp crew into action with one out in the bottom of the first inning. Then came the lightning — literally — extending the stoppage. The delay lasted 68 minutes before play resumed.
LSU (26-12) stormed back with some thunder of its own courtesy of the Catholic High contingent. Nick Coomes clubbed a two-run home run to left center, the first of his Tiger career. Josh Smith followed with a solo shot, going back to back, to put LSU ahead 3-1.
“We’d been waiting on Coomes to show that power,” Mainieri said. “He hit 13 home runs last year in junior college. He really attacked that ball. It just gave a huge lift.”
“It’s nice to finally get on the board in that column,” Coomes added. “Guys on the team have been kind of messing with me.”
The Tigers continued to pour it on after successive singles and a hit by pitch loaded the bases. Zach Watson lined an RBI single to left to Jordan Romero, who began the frame with a walk, dunked a two-run single into left field.
But Lamar (22-16), which erased an 8-0 deficit to upend LSU in Beaumont last season, clubbed its way back into the game with more power.
McDowell homered for the second times in as many at-bats, this time off Matt Beck. Thomas Fleischman then cranked a two-run home run off Beck in the fourth to cut the lead to 6-4.
Bain provided some much-needed stability out of the LSU bullpen. He got the Tigers out of the fourth, retired the side in order in the fifth and got around a two-out walk in the sixth. He struck out three and didn’t allow a hit in 2.1 innings of relief.
“This Lamar team was scary,” Mainieri said. “They could really hit. I just felt like no lead was safe tonight. I thought the key for us was Austin Bain. He kind of got control of the game … If you’d have told me early in the game that we’d hold them to four runs, I’d have told you that you were probably wrong about that.”
Meanwhile, LSU gave itself a bit of breathing room. Antoine Duplantis delivered a clutch two-out RBI single in the home fifth.
Lefty Nick Bush took over for Bain in the seventh and continued to keep the heavy-hitting Cardinals at bay. He fired a 1-2-3 inning — aided by slick fielding from Smith at the hot corner — capped with a strikeout.
LSU then proceeded to break the game open. Kramer Robertson, who reached base safely five times, brought home a run with a two-out infield single. After another infield single, Greg Deichmann roped a two-run single up the middle. Every Tiger in the starting lineup had at least one hit.
Zack Hess came on and struck out two to get around a walk in the eighth inning. He’s now fired five scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts across four outings since making the full-time move from midweek starter to late-game reliever. Hunter Newman worked a scoreless ninth inning.
The Tigers will now hit the road for a seven-game trip begging with a three-game series at SEC East-leading Kentucky set to get underway Friday night in Lexington. LSU won’t play at Alex Box Stadium again until May 5.
“We’ve got to be the road warriors now,” Mainieri said.