Mark Laird, Mason Katz find ways to help LSU Tigers

Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND. Maryland's KJ. Hockaday (8) slides safely to first under LSU's JaCoby Jones (23) at Alex Box Stadium Saturday. The Tigers broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning and won, 5-1.
Advocate staff photo by HEATHER McCLELLAND. Maryland's KJ. Hockaday (8) slides safely to first under LSU's JaCoby Jones (23) at Alex Box Stadium Saturday. The Tigers broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning and won, 5-1.

The LSU baseball team has scored in just three innings for a total of six runs in two games.

But the Tigers are 2-0, and Mark Laird and Mason Katz showed there are ways to contribute without getting a lot of hits.

Laird made three difficult catches from right field and Katz’s one-out walk triggered a four-run seventh in the Tigers’ 5-1 victory against Maryland on Saturday at Alex Box Stadium.

The Terrapins had runners on first and second with one out in a scoreless game when Laird put his legs and glove to work in the top of the seventh.

He tracked down Matt Bosse’s drive to right-center as a strong wind blew from left to right.

“That may have made it easier, because it held the ball up in the air a little bit and gave me a chance to run under it,” Laird said.

Kevin Martir then lofted a fly ball into the LSU bullpen. Laird caught up to it, negotiating the mound and grabbing the ball shortly before reaching the wall.

“I don’t think people realize how difficult a play that is with the mound and the tarp and the wall,” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said.

Laird ended the game with a diving catch of Martir’s sinking liner. Mainieri said Laird has been practicing diving for balls more effectively.

“But he’s never made a diving catch in practice,” Mainieri said.

Katz, who struck out three times and hit into a double play Friday night, got a tip from Mainieri before batting in the seventh.

The coach mentioned that Maryland starter Brady Kirkpatrick, who had held the Tigers to two hits and one walk, had walked more batters (32) than he struck out (31) last season. Katz worked Kirkpatrick for a walk and JaCoby Jones followed with another.

“That changed the complexion of the game,” Mainieri said. “That’s what got us going.”

That finished Kirkpatrick and LSU would up scoring four runs in the inning.

“That’s the best part about baseball,” Katz said. “You can have a rough night and come back the next day. We pride ourselves on taking a lot of walks and we finally put an inning together and manufactured some runs.”

New pitchers needed

Chris Cotton finished an LSU victory for the second consecutive day, but if the Tigers win the series finale Sunday, someone else will have to finish it.

After throwing 3.1 innings and 46 pitches in the first two games, Cotton will be unavailable Sunday. Joey Bourgeois, who threw an inning Friday, could close. But Mainieri said it’s likely that one or more newcomers will have to get LSU from starter Brent Bonvillain to Bourgeois. Nick Rumbelow (oblique) and Kurt McCune (back spasms) are unavailable.

Mainieri said Nick Fury, who warmed up but didn’t pitch Saturday, is likely to make his debut Sunday. Someone else among newcomers Will LaMarche, Hunter Devall, Mitch Sewald, Taylor Butler, Russell Reynolds and Hunter Newman could also make their debut.

“In order to win we’re definitely going to have to have some new pitchers step up,” Mainieri said.

McMullen ready when called

Outfielder Sean McMullen, a transfer from Delgado Community College, made his debut and singled home the Tigers’ final run in the eighth inningSaturday. With two strikes, then fouled off a pitch and hit a curveball into center field, sending Raph Rhymes home from second.

“The key to your first at-bat is to just be ready for it,” McMullen said. “I stayed loose in the dugout. I wasn’t trying to do too much. I saw Raph on second, and I just wanted to try and get him in or draw a walk. (Kevin Mooney) started me off with two curveballs, and he threw the third one in the same location. I just wanted to put it in play, and luckily it went through the infield.”