Freshman Poché to start Sunday at Vanderbilt
A group of reporters awaiting him, Andrew Stevenson twice tried to pull away from the gaggle of autograph-seeking fans leaning over the right-field wall.
Each time, they’d woo him back over, waving baseballs and hats for the LSU center fielder to sign.
On the third attempt, he broke free for good and raced toward a huddle of media members, a smile striped across his face.
Stevenson extended his hitting streak to 14 games — with a triple, no less — and a group of relievers pitched five solid innings as the Tigers beat Purdue 7-3 on Sunday afternoon at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (14-2) had 12 hits and broke a 2-2 tie with the Boilermakers (1-10) in the fourth inning on catcher Chris Chinea’s double. The Tigers piled on with a three-run fifth, when Stevenson smacked his RBI triple to right-center.
“He’s been a spark plug for us,” shortstop Alex Bregman said.
Overshadowing LSU’s fifth win in five days was the news afterward that true freshman Jared Poché would start this coming Sunday at Vanderbilt, the third game of a top-10 showdown in Nashville to open Southeastern Conference play.
Poché, Glenn and junior-college transfer Kyle Bouman had been competing for one of the two weekend starting spots behind ace Aaron Nola.
Bouman (3-0, 1.44 ERA) or Glenn (1-1, 4.74) will start Saturday’s game. Mainieri said he will make that decision Monday.
Glenn, LSU’s No. 2 starter last season, started Sunday and went a bumpy four innings. He allowed a two-run homer in the second frame and three more hits in what was his final audition to regain a weekend spot.
“I’ve got to re-evaluate it when I get home,” Glenn said about his first four starts.
LSU’s bullpen shined for a fifth straight game, and the hitters did their jobs — Stevenson included.
He did it all with his brother, Matthew, watching from the LSU dugout. Matthew, 16, has Down syndrome. He spent the game next to Mainieri, leaning over the dugout railing and gesturing toward the field for the coach.
“Pretty cool experience having him in here,” Stevenson said. “He loved it. He’s my biggest fan.”
He got to see big brother continue am impressive turnaround.
Through 16 games, Stevenson is four hits away from matching his total last season of 23. He’s hitting .432 after he hit .193 last season.
It’s the product of a swing change, something that developed during a breakout summer in the Northwoods Summer League.
Stevenson walked and had a sacrifice fly in the eighth to bring in an insurance run.
His fifth-inning triple bounced past Purdue right fielder Jack Amaro’s sliding attempt — a grab Stevenson might have made.
He was left in the lineup last year because of his impressive defense in center. On Friday and Saturday, he stole a double from the Boilermakers with fully extended dives in the gap.
“The guy’s the best center fielder in the country, hands down,” Bregman said. “Don’t think there are any questions about that.”
Others chimed in at the plate.
Mark Laird reached base in each of his four at-bats, and Chinea had his first two-hit outing of the season in front of 5,044 at the Box.
Chinea, who entered the game batting .167, drove in the go-ahead run with a liner to right in the fourth to make it 3-2.
Meanwhile, LSU’s group of relievers — Alden Cartwright, Zac Person, Nate Fury, Henri Faucheux and Parker Bugg — allowed a combined two hits and gave up just one run.
Fury gave up the run, the first the pen has allowed since last weekend’s 8-7 loss in a collapse to Yale.
“We had to do work,” Cartwright said. “We’ve not very effective.”
Cartwright, a freshman and Runnels grad, got his first win, throwing 1.1 innings of scoreless relief in replacement of Glenn in the fifth and sixth.
Bugg got his second save. And Stevenson? He ended a game with a hit for the 14th straight time.
“He’s on fire,” second baseman Conner Hale said.