Although happy with results, Mainieri wants more of same

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri,center, talks with Ty Ross (26), JaCoby Jones (23), Alex Edward (13) in the fourth inning of LSU's 14-3 victory over Maryland on Sunday.
Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNISLSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri,center, talks with Ty Ross (26), JaCoby Jones (23), Alex Edward (13) in the fourth inning of LSU's 14-3 victory over Maryland on Sunday.

LSU coach Paul Mainieri said the Tigers’ 8-1 victory against Lamar on Tuesday night was reminiscent of their three victories against Maryland last weekend.

He’d like to see more of the same when No. 3 LSU plays BYU at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Alex Box Stadium, weather permitting.

“I told the guys after the game that the thing I was most pleased with was, like all weekend, when the games were tight at the end of the game I thought they showed great poise and composure, no panic,” Mainieri said. “Our defense was good, our pitching was great and we figured out how to score some runs.”

The Tigers took advantage of wildness from Lamar’s pitchers to score six runs in the eighth and break open what had been a 2-1 game. Similarly on Sunday, they took advantage of the depths of Maryland’s bullpen and scored eight runs in the seventh and break open a competitive game and win 14-3.

On Saturday, a four-run seventh ended a scoreless tie and proved to be the difference in a 5-1 victory, and in the season opener Friday, LSU made a third-inning run stand up in a 1-0 victory.

The Tigers have outscored their opposition 28-5.

“I love where our team is,” Mainieri said. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement and our best days are ahead of us, but I couldn’t be more pleased with where we are right now. I feel like we’re right where we’re supposed to be. It’s hard for me to find a lot of criticism for our team.”

In each game, the Tigers pitching has been outstanding as it has compiled a 0.75 ERA and walked five and struck out 34 in 36 innings.

“You can’t say enough about our pitching staff,” said first baseman Mason Katz, whose two-out RBI-double broke a 1-1 tie with Lamar in the sixth inning.

In that game, Cody Glenn gave up an unearned run in the first and LSU shut out the Cardinals the rest of the way, using a total of five pitchers.

“I was really happy with the way we pitched the ball,” Mainieri said. “I thought it was another outstanding pitching performance by our entire staff.”

Aaron Nola, who set the tone with 6.2 scoreless innings in the season opener, will make his second start Thursday night. He allowed just two hits and one walk and struck out nine, one fewer than his career-high.

“All my pitches were working,” Nola said, “but I can get better on two-strike curveballs and keeping the ball down low.”

The pitchers have been helped by outstanding defense as the Tigers have made just two errors. Second baseman JaCoby Jones started two tricky double plays Tuesday and outfielder Mark Laird has made several difficult running catches.

Jones has also been one of the keys to the offense, hitting a homer in each of the last two games. He is also batting .444 with three RBIs, six runs and a .667 on-base percentage.

“Of all the things that have happened to us in the early portion of the season, I think probably the most encouraging thing is the evolution, the maturing of JaCoby Jones,” Mainieri said. “I hope he can keep it up.”

Jones, who had more than three times as many strikeouts as walks last season, has struck out three times and walked six.

“My confidence builds with each game,” Jones said. “During the game when I see good pitches and lay off the bad ones it gives me confidence. I’m just trying to be real patient and real disciplined. That’s the key.”

The first four games have mostly been played in chilly, windy conditions, but rain could be a bigger issue the next couple of days. There’s an 80-percent chance of rain Thursday and a 50-percent chance Friday.

Notes

Mainieri said Raph Rhymes will be back in left field after being the designated hitter Tuesday. … The other starting outfielders will remain Laird and Chris Sciambra, though Mainieri said he’s unsure which will play center and which right. … Ty Ross will start at catcher after not starting Tuesday, though he entered the game in the seventh inning. … Tyler Moore will be the DH against BYU RH Desmond Poulson (1-0), who threw a four-hit shutout and struck out 10 against Northern Colorado in the Cougars’ season opener Friday.