By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
Four times Zach Watson crossed home plate after touching them all.
Four times Kramer Robertson was there to greet him with an ice-cold cup of water thrown directly into the freshman center fielder’s face.
“I was trying to cool him off,” Robertson smiled. “He’s on fire right now.”
“Awesome,” Watson laughed. “Hopefully we can keep them coming.”
On fire might not do justice to the tear Watson is presently on. He’s homered twice in each of LSU’s first two wins in the Baton Rouge Regional. Watson has driven in seven runs and scored five times while going 5-for-10 so far in the tournament.
Moved into the No. 5 spot in the batting order, his blasts in the fifth and sixth inning Saturday helped the Tigers move within a victory of advancing with an 11-6 victory over Southeastern at the Box.
“Looked pretty comfortable in the five hole,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Don’t know whether he’s going to find his way to that nine hole.”
The second, a 443-foot missile that careened off the scoreboard behind the bleachers in left field, left quite the impression. It also put the Tigers up 10-5 and seemed to remove any lingering doubt from a result that looked awfully dicey in the early going.
The freshman is the first LSU player to hit four homers in a regional since Zeph Zinsman back in 2001. It took Zinsman four games while Watson has done so having played just two.
“I honestly forgot I hit a home run tonight with the way he’s hitting,” fellow freshman Josh Smith said. “He’s doing something special right now.”
That’s quite the bomb for somebody who is listed at 6 feet and 166 pounds on LSU’s official roster. The latter seems a bit generous for wiry-strong star in the making.
“You can’t teach bat speed,” second baseman Cole Freeman said. “He’s a skinny guy, but he’s got a lot of power. It’s his bat speed. His hands are so, so fast. That home run he hit was really impressive. I’ve only seen one guy do that.”
Watson credits his present hitting tear to a minor — albeit fairly obvious — adjustment.
Prior to Friday’s regional opener, LSU hitting coach Micah Gibbs implored Watson to stop letting go of the bat with one hand during his follow through. Seems simple enough, right?
Apparently two hands on the follow through equal two home runs a game for the North Louisiana native. This led to a free-wheeling debate of just how many home runs he’d have at this point had he made the adjustment months ago and Gibbs and teammates had asked.
“There’s no telling,” Watson said. “It’s baseball. It’s just a mindset.”
“You’re never going to live this down,” Mainieri joked from across the podium.