Katz, Rhymes bat LSU Tigers past SLU

LSU coach Paul Mainieri said he did a thorough evaluation of his team after its first loss of the season, a 9-4 setback against BYU on Saturday night.

He came to the conclusion that the shortcomings were pretty much limited to cleanup hitter Raph Rhymes not having a two-out RBI in six games and No. 5 hitter Mason Katz batting .217.

“If the only thing to worry about is those two,” Mainieri said, “then there’s nothing to worry about.”

The two seniors proved Mainieri right as they combined for seven hits and 11 RBIs in the Tigers’ 13-1 rout of Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium in the resumption of a game suspended because of severe weather Friday night.

“Me and Mason both realized it was about time to turn it on,” Rhymes said. “And we had a pretty good day.”

Rhymes tied his career-highs for hits (four) and doubles (two) as he drove in five runs. Katz set a career-high for RBIs (six) as he lacked just a triple to hit for the cycle.

The Tigers had a season-high 19 hits and 11 of the runs were driven home by two-out hits.

It started as soon as the game resumed with no score and Katz at the plate with a 1-1 count against Lions starter Jordan Hymel (0-1).

Mark Laird, who wound up with four hits in the game and eight for the weekend, on third and Rhymes on first in the bottom of the first. Katz looked at a curveball for ball two, then drove a fastball into the left-field bleachers for his second home run of the season.

“I wanted to have a good at bat and at least get us one run and some momentum,” Katz said. “I was trying to hit something hard up the middle for a base hit and I turned on it.”

The last time LSU resumed a suspended game, Katz singled home the winning run in his first at bat to give the Tigers a 5-4, 12-inning victory against Stony Brook in Game 1 of a super regional last June.

“He’s pretty good at those,” Rhymes said with a laugh.

The Tigers (6-1) play their first road game of the season when they visit Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday. The Lions (5-2) play Texas Southern on Friday in Hammond.

Katz’s homer jump-started an offense that had just two hits in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position Saturday night.

JaCoby Jones followed with a single and a stolen base, and he scored on Alex Edward’s single.

Tigers starter Ryan Eades (1-0), meanwhile, seemed to handle the disruption much better than Hymel, retiring the first eight batters he faced, including three strikeouts.

“It was a little different for sure. It’s not something I’ve had to do before,” Eades said of the 46-hour break between the first and second inning for him. “I just tried to stay focused and stay sharp and be aggressive and make them swing the bats and let the defense make plays behind me.”

Laird’s one-out double finished Hymel in the second. Reliever Mason Klotz got one out before giving up an RBI-double to Rhymes and RBI-single to Katz to make it 6-0.

Rhymes’ two-run double finished Klotz and made it 8-0 in the fourth.

Eades gave up back-to-back, two out singles, but kept the Lions scoreless when he got Gabe Woods on a grounder to end the fourth. SLU loaded the bases with two out in the fifth, but Eades got Harry Slade on another grounder to end that threat.

The Lions finally got on the board when Ben Hernandez hit an RBI-single in the sixth, Eades’ final inning. Eades gave up seven hits and one walk and struck out five, throwing 86 pitches on top of the 10 he threw Friday.

“I think what he did today was remarkable, because it’s not easy,” Mainieri said. “People might think, oh he only threw 10 pitches on Friday, but it’s not just the 10 pitches. He went through an entire starter’s routine that lasted half an hour and a full bullpen.

“The other thing is mentally you get yourself so geared up because you’re pitching once a week, and you get kind of deflated because your game gets rained out after one inning. So for him to regroup and go back out there and set the tone for our team, I thought he threw the ball pretty well.”

Katz doubled in two runs in the bottom of the sixth to make it 10-1. Pinch-hitter Casey Yocom’s RBI single and Rhymes’ two-run single made it 13-1 in the seventh.

Kevin Berry threw a scoreless seventh, Hunter Devall a scoreless eighth and Taylor Butler got both hitters he faced to start the ninth in his LSU debut before Chris Cotton got the final out.

Suddenly things looked a lot better for Katz and Rhymes and all the Tigers less than 24 hours after the initial loss of the season, even though the resumption came on what was supposed to be an off day.

“It was a blessing that the game was moved,” Katz said, “because after losing last night we had a chance to wash it away.”