Robertson sparkles in field, at bat in LSU win

Running at full speed, Kramer Robertson got so close to the right-field wall that he dropped to the ground for a slide.

Skidding on his back, Robertson kept his gaze toward the sky, saw the fly ball, reached out his glove and made the catch.

His back banged against the wall and a half-full Alex Box Stadium thundered with applause.

This freshman second baseman was just getting started.

“He put on a clinic out there,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “He was amazing.”

LSU routed Grambling 6-0 on Sunday, and the game produced the most unlikely of stars: a guy making his first career start and one known more for who his mother is than anything.

Robertson, the son of Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, made a host of acrobatic defensive plays, reached base in his first three appearances and scored three runs.

He helped LSU (3-0) cap its three-game, season-opening weekend sweep with its first blowout of the year.

And he’s the perfect example of what awaits Mainieri over the next few days: big decisions.

“In about three weeks, we’ll have it all figured out,” the coach said. “The best thing a coach can hope for is having tough decisions because you have several options.”

That includes starting pitcher, catcher, cleanup hitter and go-to bullpen guys.

True freshman Jared Poché pitched six shutout innings Sunday, Chris Chinea hit the team’s first homer of the season, and Andrew Stevenson had the first three-hit outing of his career in front of 5,832 fans at Alex Box.

The Tigers easily downed Grambling (0-3), a team picked to finish last in the SWAC Western Division.

Now, Mainieri must digest the opening weekend performance. He has a lot to think about.

LSU used 30 players over the weekend. Just two pitchers went unused. The Tigers started four freshmen Sunday and inserted three more.

Position battles are still up in the air, but things are slowly shaking out.

Chinea is a “tad” ahead at the catcher spot, at least defensively, the coach said. Chinea, Tyler Moore and Kade Scivicque are all competing for the gig.

The cleanup spot behind shortstop Alex Bregman seems to be wide open. LSU’s two starters at cleanup — Jared Foster and Chinea — this weekend went 2-for-22.

Mainieri hasn’t made a decision on the four-hole hitter for Wednesday’s game at Southeastern Louisiana. Foster, in the No. 7 hole Sunday, went 0-for-4.

“I just think he’s pressing a little bit now,” Mainieri said. “He wants to take advantage of getting his opportunity. I’m not giving up on the kid.”

LSU used all but two pitchers over the weekend: Hunter Newman and Chris Pelaeze, both of whom are suffering from injuries. So replacing the top five relievers lost from 2013 is becoming somewhat clear.

Kurt McCune, Joe Broussard and freshman Parker Bugg seem to be at the top of the coach’s list.

LSU’s starting pitchers this weekend — Aaron Nola, Kyle Bouman and Poché — allowed a combined 11 hits, struck out 10 and gave up one earned run in 17 innings.

Cody Glenn, who pitched one inning of scoreless and hitless relief, will get the nod Wednesday. Glenn, Bouman and Poché are competing for the two weekend starting spot behind Nola, though Glenn is seen as a favorite to lock down the Saturday role.

And then there’s Robertson.

The 160-pound Texan might give Mainieri a decision he didn’t necessarily expect to have. Robertson started in place of Conner Hale, a guy who could move to first base, a position being played by Chinea, Moore or Scivicque.

Robertson’s sliding fly-out grab in the third inning was the first of a host of stellar play. He turned a clean double play with shortstop Bregman, made a backhand, on-the-run catch on a blooper in the sixth, and fielded a one-hop throw from Chinea, at catcher, to get a runner stealing in the fourth.

He snatched a grounder behind second base too and hummed to first for the out.

“I say it every day,” Poché said of Robertson. “He’s a baller.”

Mulkey, who’s led Baylor to two national titles in her previous 13 seasons, told her son he’d be starting Sunday. How’s that?

The broadcasters of Saturday’s 7-4 win over UNO mentioned that Robertson would start Sunday. Mulkey immediately texted her son, “You’re starting tomorrow.”

“She just told me she loved me and she was proud of me,” Robertson said Sunday.

The Baylor women played Texas — and won — earlier Sunday, so Mulkey didn’t make the game. She was on hand for Friday’s opener and has been to at least one preseason practice.

She missed quite the show — a display that might leave Mainieri with another tough decision.

“He was electric,” Mainieri said.