On the winds of a sweep

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU's Alex Bregman rounds second base Sunday against Auburn at Alex Box Stadium.
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- LSU's Alex Bregman rounds second base Sunday against Auburn at Alex Box Stadium.

LSU jumps on Auburn early, wins all three games of SEC set

For the third consecutive day, the LSU baseball team went ahead of Auburn in the first inning and stayed there throughout, completing a series sweep with an 8-2 victory Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.

Chris Chinea’s two-run single was the key hit in a four-run first inning, and Alex Bregman extended his hit streak to 12 games with his fourth consecutive three-hit game.

Mark Laird and Mason Katz also had three hits each among LSU’s 13 hits.

Bregman is batting .509 during his hit streak and has raised his team-leading batting average to .422.

“Our offense was clicking this weekend,” Bregman said, “and I think getting out to leads really helped our pitching staff a lot.”

Left-hander Cody Glenn (4-1), who gave up six runs in 3.1 innings in his first Southeastern Conference start at Mississippi State a week earlier, limited Auburn to two runs on six hits in 7.2 innings. His career-long outing was also the longest by an LSU starter this season.

Auburn (15-9, 0-6) had a runner in every inning against Glenn except the fifth, but he stayed in control. Auburn scored seven runs in the series and didn’t have a multi-run
inning

“We preach to our pitchers that when you get in a jam you have to minimize the damage,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We take a lot of pride in pitching in the clutch, and that was critical for us again today.”

Third-ranked LSU is 22-2 for the fourth time in school history, matching the record starts of the 1986, 1989 and 1997 teams. It is 5-1 in Southeastern Conference play for the second time in Mainieri’s seven seasons. LSU plays at Tulane on Tuesday.

“Once you win the first two games in a series, you have to smell that blood in the water,” Mainieri said. “You don’t get too many opportunities to sweep in this league, and you have to take advantage of them.

“I could tell our guys were very determined. They didn’t need any Knute Rockne speeches to get fired up for today, I can promise you that. They wanted to go out and sweep this series.”

LSU, which took a 3-0 lead in the first Friday and a 2-0 first-inning lead Saturday, scored four runs without hitting Auburn starter Will Kendall (0-1) hard.

Chris Sciambra led off with a popup that became a double when left fielder Cullen Wacker couldn’t handle it in wind that was gusting to 29 mph.

Laird followed with a liner that second baseman Jordan Ebert mishandled. Laird got a single as Sciambra held second.

Bregman and Raph Rhymes both hit into fielder’s choices, which sent Sciambra home. Katz beat out a dribbler to third, and Christian Ibarra and JaCoby Jones walked, forcing in the second run.

“I thought we had a lot of fortuitous hits especially in the first inning,” Mainieri said. “A lot of crazy things happened there.”

Jones’ walk brought starter Kendall’s pitch count to 36, just four shy of his predetermined limit, and coach John Pawlowski brought in reliever Terrance Dedrick. Chinea drove a 1-0 fastball from Dedrick into right-center to make it 4-0.

“I was looking for a pitch I could drive,” said Chinea, who started all three games as the designated hitter after getting just two starts before that. “Any at-bat you can get, you have to try and take advantage of it.”

Auburn scored a run in the second on Garrett Cooper’s one-out double and Blake Austin’s two-out single.

“The first two innings I was trying to be a little too perfect with my pitches,” Glenn said. “I was getting behind hitters and not putting myself in good situations.

“With the run support I got early, it was easy to settle in. After the second inning, I just decided that I was going to trust my pitches.”

LSU scored two in the second as Laird, Bregman and Rhymes had consecutive singles and
Dedrick threw a wild pitch.

The lead grew to 8-1 in the sixth on consecutive RBI doubles by Laird and Bregman.

Mainieri was able to rest set-up man Joey Bourgeois, who had pitched Friday and Saturday, thanks to Glenn lasting so long.

“All of a sudden Cody kind of got into a groove after the second inning,” Mainieri said. “I think he got his confidence up, and he settled in, which was great.”