A little different approach served LSU well Wednesday when it took its first run in a mid-week game of the 2012 season.
Some of the new faces the Tigers will have to count on for offense as the season unfolds came up big, but a few tried-and-true individuals also played major roles as 7th-ranked LSU remained perfect.
Sparked by senior shortstop Austin Nola’s bat and glove, Casey Yocom’s offensive breakthrough and Jared Foster’s latest push for playing time, the Tigers rolled past McNeese State 11-4 at Alex Box Stadium.
LSU (4-0) put the Cowboys (1-2) away with a five-run sixth inning, ignited by Nola’s run-scoring double, followed by singles from Tyler Moore and Foster – both freshmen.
That gave the Tigers a 10-3 cushion, which was plenty for a by-committee day by the pitching staff. Freshman Cody Glenn got his first victory with three innings of work, each one better than the first, and Joey Bourgeois was the star on the mound with a dominant inning when he fanned two.
The key to the win was the LSU hitters being aggressive and driving the ball through the middle or the opposite way, something that was a focal point after a successful opening weekend.
Nobody typified that more than Nola, who was 2-for-4 and contributed a two-run single in the second inning after Mason Katz and Jackson Slaid poked opposite-field line drives to begin the frame.
Hitting in the six-hole after spending most of his junior season either at cleanup or batting fifth, Nola is off to a 4-for-10 start and is tied with Katz for the team lead with 6 RBIs.
“I’ve been in that situation a lot of times,” Nola said. “It came down to relaxing and not trying to do too much. The pitcher gave me a good pitch to hit and good things happened.”
In this case, the good thing was putting the Tigers in front 2-1 after McNeese scored the game’s first run in the second against Joe Broussard after loading the bases with one out.
Broussard minimized the damage when he got nine-hole hitter Tyler Klouser on a nubber and then coaxed Andre Guillotee into a harmless fly out to right field.
The Cowboys came back to regain the lead 3-2 on Nick Eubanks’ two-out, two-run double against Glenn in the third. But Nola’s hit erased the deficit and LSU never trailed again.
The Tigers collected 15 hits, every starter except JaCoby Jones getting one, with Yocom, Katz, Slaid and Foster supplying two apiece.
“We had some big hits,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Our approach at the plate was real good. We’ve been working real hard on being able to hit the ball up the middle and other way and it showed (Wednesday).”
Besides Nola’s two clutch hits, another big sign was Yocom coming up with an RBI double in the third and then extending the sixth inning with a single.
Prior to Wednesday, the Tigers’ second baseman was 1-for-8 and had not chased in a run.
“I was kind of out of my comfort zone, trying to do too much,” Yocom said. “I went back to my old ways and went back to the hitter I normally am.
“After that, I started to feel a little comfortable. I was pressing a little bit and after that at-bat I relaxed a little bit.”
The breakthrough might’ve come on the field.
Glenn walked the first hitter he faced, Renny Weber, to begin the third inning. But on a sharply hit grounder off Seth Granger’s bat, Yocom grabbed the ball on a short hop and tossed to Nola covering for a 4-6-3 double play, LSU’s first this season.
“I’m not too nervous on the infield, but it was nice to get that first double play under the belt with Austin,” Yocom said.
Nola had his moments on defense as well, with a pair of signature plays when he ranged far to his left behind second base, gobbled up the ball and threw in time to get the runners.
He had one more similar chance late in the game but couldn’t get to the ball before he scooted through for a hit.
“I’m surprised when I don’t get to them,” Nola said. “I feel like I should get to those balls. Every ball that gets up there I feel like I should make a play.”
After LSU regained a 4-3 lead in the third with Tyler Hanover, Yocom and Katz all collecting doubles, Grant Dozar gave Glenn some breathing room when he whacked a two-out solo home run in the fourth inning.
Glenn tightened up after the initial shock, allowing a leadoff single in the fourth inning and issuing a two-out walk in the fifth but working around both without any damage.
“I was probably a little bit too excited at first,” the left-hander said. “I was having fun, but I tried to overthrow a little bit and missed a couple of spots. I settled down a little bit and threw better.
“I tried to focus on the mitt more and hit my spots and that settled me down.”
Bourgeois didn’t need any settling, and he certainly didn’t show any rust.
In his first action since the end of the 2010 season, the hard-throwing right-hander was flawless. He got the Cowboys 1-2-3 in the sixth inning on a routine fly ball and then registered strikeouts against Collin Todd and Klouser on a nasty called third strike.
LSU is back in action Friday when Appalachian State visits the Box for a three-game series. The Mountaineers are 2-1 after losing to George Mason 2-1 and beating Akron twice 8-3 and 4-1 at a tournament last weekend.