LSU baseball notebook: Mark Laird quiets Ole Miss’ rowdy student section

OXFORD, Miss. — Mark Laird showed them.

Heckled by the right-field student section at Swayze Field for most of the three-game series, Laird caught two crucial flyouts in LSU’s series-clinching 2-0 win over Ole Miss on Saturday.

He made up for a rough day in Friday’s loss and quieted the 2,000-plus students who squeeze into the cement bleachers in right.

The sophomore right fielder stole a double from Austin Anderson in the seventh with a leaping against-the-wall grab, and he got the second out in the ninth with a catch in foul territory while hanging over the wall.

“When we needed him today, he made unbelievable plays for us,” coach Paul Mainieri said.

The seventh-inning grab was a highlight-reel play.

Ole Miss fans leaped to their feet, expecting an extra-base hit if not a solo home run. Laird raced to the wall, leaping as he approached.

He timed the jump perfectly. The ball came down about a foot under the top of the wall, and Laird snatched it for the out.

“I saw I had it, and I thought, ‘Now maybe they’ll be a little quieter in right field,’ ” Laird said.

His ninth-inning grab retired Will Allen with the second out of the ninth. He caught that ball while hanging over the 4-foot-high wall that runs along the right-field foul line.

He also ran into a ball girl while making the play, a photo that made the rounds on the Internet on Saturday night.

“I didn’t know she was there at first,” Laird said. “I caught it, and I hit her. I hit her a little too hard. I checked on her and I was like, ‘Oh, goodness, there’s a runner on first.’ ”

The runner held at first.

The banner day followed a shaky Friday for Laird, who dropped a fly ball in foul territory in a similar spot to that ninth-inning grab. It would have ended a fourth-inning rally for Ole Miss.

Laird also dropped a home run. The ball squirted out of his glove when it hit the wall and bounded over.

“I was kind of disappointed in myself yesterday, not making a play I make 99 percent of the time,” he said of the foul fly. “I should have made that play. I flushed it and came out here and I was like, ‘I’ve got to do something to get my team a win today.’ ”

Water shower

Conner Hale got his own water — not beer — shower.

Hale smashed a 2-2 pitch from Ole Miss starter Sam Smith, sending it soaring over the left-field wall and into the Rebels bullpen in the eighth inning of Saturday’s win.

Hale returned to the dugout, where shortstop Alex Bregman threw water from a cup into the air, imitating the Ole Miss students and their beer showers. Students toss their drinks into the air when a Rebel ball leaves the park, something Mainieri called “a beer shower” earlier in the week.

“It was awesome,” Hale said.

It was Hale’s first home run of the season and just his second in three years. He had two home runs in two years in junior college.

Hale’s long shot in his final at-bat capped a breakout weekend for the Florida native.

He went a combined 5-for-8 in the Thursday and Saturday wins. Mainieri sat him Friday with LSU facing a left-handed pitcher. Hale entered the series 2 for his past 21 at-bats in SEC games.

“Off day yesterday,” Hale said, “and I came out today ready to play.”

More shuffling

An unusual batting order mustered just five hits Saturday.

Bregman was moved to the No. 6 hole and Sean McMullen to the cleanup spot. Freshman Jake Fraley batted third, and Andrew Stevenson led off. Mainieri purposely loaded the top of his lineup with left-handed hitters against Smith, who throws a cut fastball.

Smith retired 10 straight starting with the final batter in the fourth and ending with Hale’s homer to start the eighth.

“I thought it worked even though we only scored (two) runs,” the coach said. “I don’t know if I’ll continue to do it or not.”

Lagniappe

Ole Miss hitting coach and third-base coach Cliff Godwin was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in the seventh inning. Head coach Mike Bianco coached the rest of the game at third. … Kurt McCune got the save, his second of the week and third of the season. He got the save in Thursday’s 4-3 win in 13 innings.