After coming back from a four-run deficit for a 6-5 win Sunday to complete a three-game series sweep at Missouri, the LSU baseball team didn’t figure to be pushed nearly as hard Tuesday night.
But second-ranked LSU still had to wipe out an early 3-0 lead by Alcorn State, which brought a 6-26 record into the game, before securing a 7-3 victory in front of 4,203 fans in Alex Box Stadium.
After Alcorn State struck for a pair of two-out home runs in the first two innings for a surprising 3-0 lead, freshman pitcher Hunter Devall came on in relief and settled things down while LSU’s bats woke up.
Five LSU players had two hits each to back Devall’s one-hit pitching over four innings, the longest stint of the left-hander’s young career, as the Tigers won their ninth consecutive game and 21st in the past 22 outings.
“I think the best thing about that game is it’s over and it’s in the win column,” a relieved LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Sometimes, games are just hard to play.
“We just came off a very emotional weekend in Missouri with three big wins,” he said. “I thought we would be ready to play. There’s no school this week (for spring break) and we had a nice workout Monday, but we got off to kind of a bad start there.”
Still, LSU (27-2) inched closer to matching the best start in school history as the 1986 team, the first one to advance to the College World Series, went 28-2.
The Tigers will have an opportunity to tie that mark when they meet Southern Miss (11-16) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Wally Pontiff Jr. Classic at Zephyr Field.
After LSU starter Russell Reynolds gave up the two home runs and lasted just two innings, Devall, who had pitched 9.1 innings in his first 10 appearances, shut down Alcorn State.
Alex Bregman, Raph Rhymes, Mason Katz, Alex Edward and Casey Yocom each had two hits in LSU’s 14-hit attack, which helped them come back from a solo homer by Alcorn State shortstop Angel Rosa in the first inning and a two-run shot by first baseman Ashton Lewis in the second.
Both came off Reynolds, who was replaced by Devall to start the third inning after LSU got a run back in the bottom of the second.
Cedric Walker, the first batter to face Devall, doubled into the left field corner. But Devall (2-0) retired the next nine batters he faced before Walker led off the sixth with a walk.
“The last two outings I haven’t felt the best,” said Devall, a Clinton native. “So it felt good to get out on the mound, and throw to get the touch back for the ball and get ready for Kentucky (this weekend).
“They were very aggressive and he (Mainieri) told me to get out there and do my job. The first batter actually hit a double down the line, but I kept grinding and everything was working so I got out of it.”
While the hitters eventually came around against Alcorn State starter Mundo Sanchez (0-2), Mainieri pointed to Devall as the key to the game.
“He really did a super job,” he said. “He had four shutout innings and we were able to tie the game up and take the lead, so it was a nice win.”
By the time Devall left, after striking out Ryant Piper looking with the bases loaded in the sixth inning, LSU had taken a 4-3 lead.
After Katz scored the Tigers’ first run in the second inning on a single by Yocom, who got the start at second base to give JaCoby Jones a rest, LSU got another run in the third off Sanchez.
Bregman sliced a triple to left field, which extended his hitting streak to 17 games, and Rhymes followed with a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Bregman, whose streak started on March 6, has at least one hit in 26 of the Tigers’ 29 games this season. He added a double in the fifth inning, giving him 20 multihit games.
Bregman’s one-out double in the fifth started a two-run rally that finally gave LSU the lead.
After a wild pitch, Rhymes doubled to bring home Bregman with the tying run. Then, Katz and Christian Ibarra walked before Edward, who was hitting .174 coming into the game, singled to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
After Devall got out of the bases-loaded jam in the sixth, Mainieri turned the game over to Will LaMarche and Nick Rumbelow, who pitched the seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Nate Fury and Joey Bourgeois put the finishing touches on a combined four-hitter.
LSU added three runs in the seventh to put the game out of reach.
Rhymes led off with a towering home run to left-center field, while Chris Chinea added a run-scoring single and Sean McMullen drove in the final run with a sacrifice fly.
“I’ve been struggling little, so I wanted to come out with a little more intensity,” said Rhymes, who homer soared over the left-center field bleachers near the scoreboard. “I was just ready to get through it. It felt good to play tonight and I felt pretty comfortable.”
Copyright © 2014, Capital City Press LLC • 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810 • All Rights Reserved