Tigers thrash Tennessee, send message

Thunderstorms might have been in the forecast, but the only precipitation at Alex Box Stadium Friday evening was a deluge of 18 LSU base hits as the Tigers pounded Tennessee, 17-4.

The Tigers (28-13-1, 13-5-1 in SEC) scored a season high 17 runs in winning their first series opener since a 5-1 victory over South Carolina on April 4. In its past two SEC series, LSU dropped opening games to Ole Miss and at Vanderbilt scoring a combined four runs.

The Tigers resume the series with Tennessee Saturday evening with the first pitch slated for 6 p.m.

LSU's Friday woes ended against Tennessee, though, as the Tigers fueled up the offense with 12 different LSU players garnering hits in the contest, including six with two or more hits on the night.

"We had some good fortune," LSU coach Smoke Laval said. "We hit some balls with eyes on them and we hit some rockets. But we always seemed to have runners on base and that is always good for offensive pressure."

With the win, LSU gained ground ahead of Auburn (31-12, 12-7 in SEC), who lost 7-4 at Vanderbilt Friday. LSU now holds a game and a half lead on the Tigers, who are tied with Mississippi State (29-10-1, 12-6 in SEC) in second place. The Bulldogs were rained out at Florida Friday. That game will be made up as part of a doubleheader on Saturday.

The Volunteers (24-17, 8-11 in SEC) silenced the Alex Box Stadium crowd when Jordan Czarniecki homered on the second pitch of the game. Czarniecki's blast seemed to only irritate the Tigers, who scored three runs in the home half of the first and four more in the second taking a comfortable 7-1 advantage after two complete innings.

"We wanted to start the weekend off with a message," sophomore Clay Harris said. "We wanted to come out and jump on them."

There was no doubt the Tigers accomplished that mission.

The long ball highlighted LSU's early-inning, offensive barrage as Bruce Sprowl drilled the third pitch he saw for a leadoff bomb in the bottom of the first. It was the first home run of the season and his first as Tiger.

Harris hit a towering three-run job in the second inning, extending his team lead as the leader in round trippers. The Slidell native collected his 10th homer of the season, which is as many as the team leader hit a season ago. Matt Heath nailed his 10th home run of the season in the regional against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Freshman hurler Justin Meier got back in the win column after being tagged with losses in each of his previous two Friday starts. Meier (5-2) went 7 2/3 innings and gave up four runs on nine hits with two strikeouts.

"Justin has been pitching well all season," Harris said. "But the last two Fridays, he hasn't had anything to show for it because we haven't scored any runs. We owed him this one."

Although Meier broke his slump, he did not feel like he had his best stuff.

"I knew it was not my best effort," Meier said. "But it was more relaxing out there with those insurance runs. How can you be nervous when you are up 15 runs?"

Meier may not have been on top of his game, but at least he was not standing in Tennessee pitcher Ben Riley's shoes on Friday.

Riley was not nearly as fortunate as Meier with run support. On top of that, he was far from his best as well. Already owning one win over the Tigers from last season, Riley was roughed up early and often surrendering seven runs on seven hits with three strikeouts in two and two-thirds innings of work. One year ago, Riley went eight and a third innings downing LSU in Knoxville 2-1.

The Tigers' 18 hits was the second highest hit total of the season, but the best for LSU in SEC play. The 17 runs scored were the most runs plated this season, surpassing 15 runs scored in a 15-0 rout at Centenary on February 11.

LSU has made a habit of starting swiftly then fading in the later innings, but that was not the case Friday. After jumping out to a 7-1 lead after two frames, LSU went scoreless in third and four innings before brining across four runs in the fifth, three in the sixth and another three-spot in the seventh.

"We had runners on base and got them in when we needed to and that was clutch," LSU shortstop Aaron Hill said.

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