By JAMES MORAN | Tiger Rag Associate Editor
LSU returned to its winning ways Wednesday night behind power pitching, an awe-inspiring display of power hitting and some two-out thunder.
Zack Hess struck out six over five innings of two-hit shutout ball in his first collegiate start and Greg Deichmann homered for the third time in five games to lift LSU (4-1) to a 8-1 defeat of Hofstra (0-4) at Alex Box Stadium.
Five of those seven runs and six of LSU’s first nine hits came with two outs. Meanwhile, six Tiger hurlers tossed a combined four-hitter while striking out 11.
“I was really proud of the guys, I thought they came out with a lot of focus,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “I told the guys tonight isn’t about who we’re playing, it’s about us. This is about bouncing back from a heartbreaking loss last night. We take pride in not having losing streaks at LSU, so it was important for us to come out and play well, and I thought we did.”
The rookie right-hander looked far more in control Wednesday than during a one-inning relief stint Sunday against Air Force. He cruised through an 11-pitch first inning with the first of five strikeouts to come via his nasty curveball.
Deichmann then stakes the freshman to a lead in the bottom half of the inning. Batting with a man on second base and two outs, Deichmann belted a 0-2 mistake from lefty Michael James clear over the Intimidator atop the right field bleachers.
“That’s easily the furthest one I’ve hit, by far,” Deichmann said. “I’ve had some pretty lengthy ones, but that one tops them all. I’ve gone off the Intimidator, but never over it.”
The slugger’s third blast home run in five games — and the second against a left-handed pitcher, formally a bugaboo for Deichmann — and carried an estimated 486 feet, according to TrakMan.
“Anything that travels that far ought to have a flight attendant on it,” Mainieri quibbed.
“If I did that,” Cole Freeman began, “well, I couldn’t hit two balls that far.”
Only one of Hess’ next four innings would go in order like the first. He froze Hofstra shortstop Mikey Riesner on a curveball to strand a pair of runners after a Josh Smith error and a single. He induced a popup to shortstop Kramer Robertson to strand two more in his fifth and final frame.
“I thought he looked confident out there tonight and threw the ball with a lot of conviction,” Mainieri said. “He threw a lot of good breaking pitches for strikes and he held his velocity for most of the game. I thought he did a good job.”
The Tiger bats went back to work in the home half of the inning. Freeman singled up the middle and stole second base on the first pitch of the next at-bat.
Antoine Duplantis then brought him home with his fourth hit in two midweek games. Duplantis then stole second and scored on Robertson’s single through the left side to extend the lead to 4-0.
LSU tacked on two more runs in the sixth inning. Smith led off with a single to left and stole second base. Catcher Mike Papierski, who gunned down a would-be base stealer to end a Hofstra rally in the fourth, followed with an RBI double down the right-field line.
After a Beau Jordan strikeout, Freeman singled through the right side to score Papierski from second base. Freeman recorded his fourth multi-hit game in five chances. Robertson then led off the seventh with a double and scored on Jake Slaughter’s single to left.
Meanwhile, fellow freshman Todd Peterson took over for Hess on the mound and cruised through two perfect innings. He induced five ground balls and wrapped up the seventh with a strikeout.
The quick-working righty has now allowed just a walk over three innings across two relief appearances, presumably working his way up the bullpen pecking order, particularly after the events of Tuesday night.
“I can’t say enough about Todd Peterson,” Mainieri gushed. “I just like the way that guy works. He works fast, throws a lot of strikes, he’s a real confident guy … I think he’s going to be a guy we can count on.”
Left-hander Nick Bush followed in the eighth, making his LSU debut after missing all of the 2016 season with Tommy John Surgery. He struck out two, both looking, sandwiched around a walk. Matthew Beck, making his LSU debut, came on and got a punch out to end the inning.
True freshman Rankin Woley capped LSU’s scoring with a RBI double in the eighth, which was his first collegiate hit and run batted in. A throwing error by Chris Reid in the ninth got Hofstra on the board and cost LSU a shutout.
LSU will host Maryland for a three-game series slated to begin Friday night at the Box.
– Jordan Romero, who has been out with an ankle injury, made his 2017 debut. He caught the final two innings and grounded out to third base in his first at-bat of the season.