Tigers prevail in Wally Pontiff Classic
Andrew Stevenson wanted to avoid the wind Tuesday night.
His final shot on a career-high four-hit outing found it.
It’s a good thing, too.
Stevenson went 4-for-4 at the plate, and the LSU baseball team routed Southern Miss 13-5 on Tuesday in the Wally Pontiff Classic at a chilly, windswept Zephyr Field.
Stevenson, a sophomore center fielder, had three ground-ball singles before a line drive gave him that fourth hit. His shot hung up in the wind long enough to give the speedster enough time to get to second, falling short of Southern Miss left fielder Dylan Burdeaux.
“Definitely, a good feeling,” Stevenson said of his final shot in the sixth inning. “Just get to the next bag. That’s what I was thinking.”
Stevenson had his record night, third baseman Christian Ibarra had a career-high four RBIs, and LSU knocked in 15 hits in a confidence-boosting win heading into what coach Paul Mainieri dubbed a “critical” series against Ole Miss.
The Tigers (28-9-1) had 10 runs by the fourth inning Tuesday, shaking off a troublesome outing from pitcher Nate Fury to bury the Golden Eagles (21-17).
“Had some big nights from some guys,” Mainieri said. “There were several big hits for us. Good win for us. Good way to start the road trip.”
Starter Alden Cartwright allowed a three-run homer in the second inning, and Fury allowed four hits and walked two in his seven batters faced. The two teams were tied at 5 after the top half of the third.
Have no fear. The Tigers’ bats were alive on a sub-50 degree April night in Metairie.
LSU had a four-hit, four-run fourth inning to take a 10-5 lead and then coasted with solid outings from a host of relievers.
But it’s the offensive success Tuesday that will give a good jolt for a squad coming off of a four-hit performance in a Game 3 loss to Arkansas on Sunday.
“I think the guys were having some fun out there at the plate tonight,” Mainieri said. “It would be nice to see that continue to carry into the weekend.”
The Tigers meet the Rebels in a Thursday-Saturday three-game series, the first of which is televised on ESPNU.
“It definitely gives us a little confidence in there knowing we can swing with the best of them,” Stevenson said.
Mainieri called the series with the Rebels “big.” The teams are ranked in the top 13 in the major polls. LSU, at 8-6-1, is fourth in the SEC, and Ole Miss (29-9, 9-6) is in a tie for second.
Seven LSU players had at least one hit over the first four innings Tuesday.
The Tigers batted 20 in a wacky first three innings, in which the teams combined for 11 runs and 14 hits. A pitcher from each team issued a bases-loaded walk, a runner was hit by a ground ball, and there were two errors.
LSU had three straight hits to open the game, the first time that’s happened since March 9 against Purdue.
The Tigers did it in front of an announced crowd 7,018 at the annual event honoring Wally Pontiff Jr., an all-SEC third baseman for LSU who died in 2002 at the age of 21 because of a heart abnormality.
LSU moved to 9-2 in Pontiff Classic games, beating Southern Miss four of those nine times. The Tigers will play Louisiana-Lafayette in next season’s Wally Pontiff Classic, a game set for April 1.
Henri Faucheux (3-0) got the win on the mound for LSU, which used seven pitchers. The Tigers pitched a shut out over the final six innings after the rough start from Fury and Cartwright.
Parker Bugg allowed one hit through two innings. Faucheux, Hunter Devall, Kurt McCune and Zac Person threw a combined 3.1 innings of scoreless and hitless relief.
“We settled down a little bit out of the bullpen,” Mainieri said. “Pieced it together well.”
Danny Zardon replaced Kramer Robertson at second base to start the third inning. Robertson committed a second-inning error. … Left fielder Jake Fraley got his second straight start. … Immediately after Tuesday’s game, LSU was set to board a sleeper bus for a trip to Memphis. They were scheduled to drive through the night and arrive in Memphis at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday. Players and coaches were to sleep for about five hours before visiting St. Jude Children’s Hospital and then heading to Oxford for practice.