Tigers break out of hitting slump, beat McNeese

“Without a doubt, Alex is the heartbeat of our lineup, and that home run really sparked us.” SEAN McMULLEN, LSU DH

After another frustrating start Wednesday night, the LSU baseball team snapped out of its hitting funk in a big way.

Limited to just one hit through five-plus innings by McNeese State right-hander Michael Desabrais, who retired the side in order four of the first five innings, the Tigers bats finally broke through.

LSU erupted for eight runs on eight hits in the sixth and seventh innings and the Tigers went on to record a much-needed 10-3 win against McNeese — snapping a four-game losing streak — before 4,076 fans in Alex Box Stadium.

Shortstop Alex Bregman, who was mired in a 4-for-41 slump going into the game, was hitless in his first two plate appearances against Desabrais before a three-run homer in the sixth inning gave his team a 5-3 lead.

LSU (21-8-1) then scored five more runs in the seventh inning to bounce back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits against McNeese (16-11) to finish the Cowboys off.

The comeback win was the 1,200th of LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s career, but the milestone victory certainly didn’t come as easily as the final score indicated.

Sean McMullen’s wind-blown two-run homer to the left field bleachers in the third inning was the only hit for LSU until Mark Laird delivered a perfectly placed hit-and-run single through the open hole at shortstop in the sixth.

That came after Christian Ibarra’s walk and a flyout by McMullen — which set up Bregman’s three-run tomahawk shot to left-center on the first pitch from Desabrais.

“That was a great job by my teammates of getting on base,” Bregman said. “I can’t thank them enough.”

Bregman, who was 0-for-17 with his last hit coming on March 23, took an eye-level curve ball deep to left-center field after Mainieri put on a second straight hit-and-run following Laird’s hit.

“I just wanted to take the indecision away from Alex,” Mainieri said. “I didn’t want him to have to wait on a strike. When the hit-and-run signal is on, you have to swing.

“Hopefully, that will get him going,” he added.

Bregman, who went to the plate with the idea of just hitting something deep to get the tying run home, said he wouldn’t have gone after the high pitch from Desabrais had the hit-and-run not been on.

“I was just swinging to let the ball get deep,” he said. “I didn’t hit it deep in my first two at-bats, so I just wanted something deep.

“That’s good baseball,” Bregman said of Mainieri’s call. “He took away taking a pitch, which he does a lot with guys. But he did that for me, and it was up to me to simplify it.”

Sparked by Bregman’s second home run of the season, the Tigers suddenly picked up the pace on offense in the seventh inning.

After back-to-back hits by Tyler Moore and Andrew Stevenson with one out put runners at the corners, Ibarra laid down a safety squeeze up the first base line that scored Moore.

Then, after a single by McMullen, who was 2-for-4 with two RBI, pinch-hitter Chris Sciambra and Kade Scivicque delivered two-run singles to blow the game wide open.

The Cowboys started strong in the second inning with run-scoring singles by Clay Payne and Cameron Toole off Tigers starter Cody Glenn, who allowed three hits and two runs in 1.2 innings.

After McMullen tied the game at 2-all on his third homer of the season, one more than he had all last year, McNeese regained the lead on a solo shot by designated hitter Lucas Quary in the fourth.

Quary’s blast came off Alden Cartwright, the first of seven relievers used by Mainieri. Cartwright, a freshman, pitched 2.1 innings and allowed just one other hit to keep LSU in the game despite Quary’s homer.

“Once Alden came in, I thought we did a nice job,” said Mainieri, whose staff surrendered just four hits over the final five innings. “The rest of the guys pitched well, so that was a positive.”

But so was the late hitting.

“I knew McNeese was going to be a good challenge tonight,” Mainieri said. “I knew it was going to be a tough go. But boy-oh-boy, we had one hit in the first five innings. We were fortunate to not be no-hit at that point.”

While McMullen took care of that with his home run, watching Bregman hit one out was just as big.

“Without a doubt, Alex is the heartbeat of our lineup,” he said, “and that home run really sparked us.”