Hale sparks LSU to 7-3 win over Lions

Newcomer supplies 3 hits, strong ‘D’

“They play us tough all of the time. They play an unorthodox style. Their hitters are slap hitters. They try to draw walks. They bunt a lot. Our guys were kind of ready for it.” PAUL MAINIERI, LSU baseball coach, on Southeastern Louisiana

Conner Hale turned his big promotion into a big night.

Moved from the No. 9 hole to the cleanup spot, Hale had three hits and turned a sparkling double play as LSU beat Southeastern Louisiana 7-3 Wednesday night.

The Tigers (4-0) survived their toughest test yet in a rowdy environment at Alumni Field in Hammond, and Hale, a junior college transfer from Florida, took advantage of his boost in the batting order.

“I wasn’t trying to do anything different than I usually do,” said Hale, who is 7-for-13 on the year. “I did that and it worked out.”

Junior starter Cody Glenn pitched five innings, LSU’s defense shined again and the Tigers took advantage of a shoddy inning from Southeastern to open the season with four straight wins.

The Tigers scored four runs in the sixth inning to break a 2-2 tie. The inning included two hit batters, a walk, a pair of singles and a disastrous scene at the plate.

Mark Laird scored on a wild pitch, and then Southeastern catcher Jameson Fisher tossed the ball into the dugout because it was wet, coach Paul Mainieri said afterward.

Alex Bregman then came home to make it 4-2, and Christian Ibarra advanced to third.

“Don’t think I’ve seen that one in a long time,” Mainieri said.

Glenn, making his first 2014 start, allowed three runs and seven hits, most of them choppers difficult to field.

Glenn allowed a run in the first inning after his first two runners reached on chopping singles.

But he struck out the final two batters in the first and didn’t find trouble again until the fifth.

A group of four LSU relievers allowed just one hit, and the Tigers defense played “borderline spectacular,” Mainieri said.

It all culminated in LSU, ranked No. 8 by Baseball America, getting a win over a Southeastern team that posed the biggest threat to the squad so far.

“They play us tough all of the time,” Mainieri said. “They play an unorthodox style. Their hitters are slap hitters. They try to draw walks. They bunt a lot. Our guys were kind of ready for it.”

The Lions (2-2) barely missed the regional field last season, and a school-record 3,747 — most wearing green — created a wild environment on a picture perfect night.

“It was awesome,” Hale said of the crowd. “You zone them out when you’re out there, but you can still hear them. It’s fun.”

Southeastern tied the game at 2 in the fifth inning. Glenn allowed a leadoff single, threw a wild pitch and then allowed the RBI blooper to center.

The stands shook as rowdy Lions fans leaped to their feet. The Tigers quieted the roars during the next inning, that nightmarish sixth for Southeastern.

Laird walked and Bregman was hit by a pitch. Hale then singled to set up that four-run inning.

Hale went 3-for-5, all of them singles. He drove in a run, too, and turned LSU’s best double play of the season so far.

Racing behind second baseman for a hard hit grounder, Hale scooped it into his glove and, halfway falling, flipped to Bregman who whistled to first to end the fourth inning.

“That was pivotal,” Mainieri said.

Center fielder Andrew Stevenson also made a diving catch, and left fielder Mark Laird stole a pair of hits with his speed.

Right fielder Jared Foster pulled himself out of an ugly three-game slump. He entered the game batting 1-for-13.

Foster, the former cleanup hitter who batted eighth Wednesday, went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

“Any time you get two hits in a game, it’s a good game,” Foster said. “Definitely more relaxed today. Not trying to do too much at the plate.”

LSU used four relievers after pulling Glenn in the sixth: Nate Fury, Parker Bugg, Joe Broussard and Kurt McCune, who closed out his second game of the year.

Each pitched one inning, and the group allowed one hit, struck out two and walked one. Bugg, a freshman from California, struck out two and induced a fly out, a much better outing than his shaky ninth inning Saturday in a win over UNO.

“Bullpen’s looking spectacular, and that’s just taking so much pressure off everybody else,” Glenn said.

LSU hosts Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. Friday at Alex Box Stadium.

CBS Sports Network gets two

CBS Sports Network will televise seven Southeastern Conference baseball games this season, including LSU games at Florida on March 29 and at Texas A&M on May 2.

Including the Tigers’ first three games of the season last weekend, LSU will have at least 29 of its 56 regular-season games on television.

First pitch for the LSU-Florida game on March 29 will be at noon, and the LSU-Texas A&M game on May 2 will begin at 6:30 p.m.

Other SEC matchups on CBS Sports Network include: South Carolina at Auburn (April 19); Florida at Alabama (May 3); Tennessee at Mississippi State (May 11); Mississippi State at Alabama (May 16) and South Carolina at Vanderbilt (May 17).

CBS Sports Network is available across the country through local cable, video and telco providers and via satellite on DirecTV Channel 221 and Dish Network Channel 158.

For information, including a full programming schedule and how to get CBS Sports Network, go to cbssportsnetwork.com.