Like Goldilocks’ porridge, LSU came in three different temperatures this weekend: cold, just right, and hot.
LSU simply couldn’t get the bats going on a cold Friday in the series opener against Eastern Kentucky, recording just three hits and getting shut out 2-0.
The Tigers evened the series on Saturday with a 6-3 victory off the back of Landon Marceaux’s pitching and then came back on Sunday to score 10 runs in four innings to win 10-2 and take the series, improving to 5-3.
The offensive struggles Friday night loss sparked some mild panic from LSU fans, mainly stemming from it coming off the heels of the Tigers’ 4-2 loss to Nicholls on Wednesday.
On Saturday and Sunday LSU proved that it was just an aberration, but still didn’t exactly rack up the hits.
In the final two games, the Tigers put up 16 runs on just 14 hits, proving that timely hitting is sometimes all that matters. To wit: on Saturday, five of LSU’s six runs came off two hits. Two came off a home run from Daniel Cabrera in the first inning and three off a Cade Beloso double in the eighth.
Off The Starting Block
LSU didn’t get the sweep, but it did get three fine starts from the starting rotation of Cole Henry, Landon Marceaux, and AJ Labas.
The three combined to throw 20 innings where they only allowed four runs (three earned) off 11 hits with 15 strikeouts and four walks.
Marceaux had the most notable start of them all, going a career-best eight innings where he shutout the Colonels and held them to four hits and no walks while striking out six on just 80 pitches. Marceaux might have gotten the shot at a complete game were he not on a 90-pitch limit along with the rest of the pitching staff.
Henry’s outing was overshadowed by the offense scuffling, but he was brilliant in his own right. He threw for five innings where the Colonels scored two runs (one earned) on just three hits. Henry both walked and struck out three batters.
It was a performance that sets up a team up for a win most of the time, it just happened to come on a night the Tigers couldn’t offer any run support.
Labas did get that run support on Sunday, though. He pitched seven innings with just two runs (both earned) and four hits allowed. Labas issued just one walk and recorded six strikeouts.
As displayed this weekend, three starts like these can’t guarantee a sweep but they do put the team in prime position to win the series.
“Blowtorch in the back pocket”
The original plan this weekend was for freshman Alex Milazzo to catch two games and then potentially serve as designated hitter for the game he doesn’t catch.
Milazzo ended up starting all three games at catcher for LSU.
The elevation of Milazzo’s role is due to his defensive prowess behind the plate, especially his right arm. On Saturday that much-heralded arm was put on display when he picked off a runner at second and threw out a steal attempt before the runner even got halfway to the bag.
On Sunday, Milazzo fielded a tapper and instead of making the safe play for the out at first, he gunned down the lead runner trying to take second, keeping EKU from having a runner in scoring position.
Some of those plays are more understated than others, but the value of a great defensive catcher is massive, and we saw why this weekend.
First baseman Cade Beloso called Milazzo’s arm a “blowtorch in the back pocket”. LSU head coach Paul Mainieri said Milazzo was “a game changer behind the plate.”
Even if Milazzo doesn’t light up the scoreboard like this weekend (1 for 7, three runs, and four walks), defense like he put on display this weekend is an invaluable asset for the Tigers moving forward.
Ring The Bel
Apart from Friday night, Beloso was the definition of timely hitting this weekend.
Beloso went 5 for 11 with a walk, and five hits brought home six runs. On Saturday he had a massive three-run double in the eighth inning that provided the insurance the Tigers needed to safely land the 6-3 victory.
On Sunday Beloso went 3 for 3, all of which were singles to right field. The first one came with two outs and brought a run home in the first inning while the second scored two in the Tigers’ seven-run third inning.
Even his third hit of the day came with two outs. While it didn’t bring home a run, it did put a runner in scoring position and extend the inning. Beloso later drew a walk to reach base safely in all four plate appearances.
Doughty Dropped, Dugas Down
Freshman Cade Doughty was pulled from the lineup in the middle of the third inning Saturday after committing his second error of the day.
Before the season, Mainieri revealed that Doughty had been moved from the left side of the infield of the infield to second base to take some of the defensive pressure off him. Even still, he was willing to deal with some defensive decencies to have Doughty’s bat in the lineup.
But he hasn’t been producing, going hitless in five at bats with a walk between Friday night and his one plate appearance Saturday. Going back further than this weekend, Doughty has just one hit and RBI in his last five games and is 3 for 22 overall.
Gavin Dugas was put in Doughty’s stead, but his immediate future is uncertain.
On Sunday, Dugas was hit in the head with a pitch and fell to the ground, where he remained for some time. He was immediately treated to by the LSU training staff and walked off under his own power, but after the game Mainieri said that Dugas was showing concussion symptoms.
So for the time being, second base is in flux. Will Doughty be re-inserted with hopes that his bat will come around? Will CJ Willis get a shot or will either Hal Hughes or Collier Cranford slide over from shortstop?
We’ll have to find out Wednesday night when LSU hosts Louisiana Tech at 6:30.