Getting offense a little at a time might not be the game a lot of LSU fans grew up with or expect.
But ready or not, that’s what college baseball has become with trends the last few years.
Of course what should make that much easier to accept is the kind of dominant pitcher the Tigers have flashed so far in 2012.
“That was kind of the template that we’re going to have to use if we’re going to win games and have a successful season,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said after his team improved to 5-0 with a third shutout in five games. “Great pitching and defense and a determined, gritty approach at the plate.”
Gausman made sure the great pitching continued with a dazzling seven-inning stint to up his record to 2-0.
The sophomore right-hander allowed four hits, but only a handful of balls that reached the outfield. He fanned 7 – ending six innings with strikeouts – and shrugged off threats in the fifth and sixth frames.
Appalachian State cleanup hitter D.J. Kassouf struck out swinging vs. Gausman to end the first, fourth and sixth frames and stranded three runners. The Mountaineers were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
“Our big focus was going in on these guys,” Gausman said. “We knew they were going to be aggressive.
“Early on we noticed how aggressive they were going they were going to be and saw the ugly swings they were taking at my breaking pitch.”
With Gausman was so sharp, Appalachian State’s threats never registered much because the Mountaineers (2-2) never got a leadoff man on base.
The most serious challenge came in the sixth when Preston Troutman beat out an infield single with two outs and Will Callaway punched a sharply hit ball through the infield. That brought up Kassouf, who Gausman said “never could figure out my curve ball.”
“I thought he was real sharp,” Mainieri said of Gausman. “That was big-time pitching.
“His command was much better (Friday). He got ahead of most hitters and threw some really good changeups. He was a complete pitcher (Friday).”
The Tigers’ defense lent a hand as well.
|LSU second baseman Casey Yocom completes a doubleplay to end the ASU third inning.|
After nine-hole hitter Tyler Zupcic blooped a one-out single to center, leadoff man Hector Crespo scorched a ground ball inside the left-field line that seemed destined for extra bases. But LSU third baseman Tyler Hanover gobbled up the ball and triggered a 5-4-3 double play that Mainieri deemed “the play of the game.”
ASU starter Seth Grant wasn’t a breeze for the Tigers either.
LSU collected seven hits against him, but had to peck away with single runs in the second, third and fourth innings. Grant evaded major damage by keeping the ball down in the strike zone and consistently getting ground balls to wiggle out of trouble.
“That kid was a good pitcher,” Mainieri said. “We really had to battle against him.”
The Tigers drew first blood in the second inning when Mason Katz rammed a leadoff single to right field, Austin Nola worked Grant for a two-out walk on a full count to bring up Ross. After missing the last two games with a sore shoulder, the LSU catcher jerked an RBI single to right field.
Ross produced another single in the fourth to set up a run and walked in his final two at-bats. He’s 6-for-9 this season with 4 RBIs.
“I was trying to hit the ball the other way and battle with two strikes,” Ross said of his RBI hit. “Keep the innings alive.”
LSU’s second run was efficiently manufactured when Hanover drew a leadoff walk, scooted to second on Casey Yocom’s grounder to short and raced home when Raph Rhymes whipped a single to center field.
In the fourth inning, Nola walked again with one out and Ross popped his second hit to right to put runners on the corners. Grant Dozar chopped back to Grant, who spun and threw off-target to Callaway covering second base, and that prevented a double play, which allowed Nola to score.
|Austin Nola: 2 walks, 2 runs scored and another solid defensive night in the Tigers' 4-0 triumph.|
Grant got the first two outs of the sixth inning before Nola dumped a single into center field. Mountaineers’ coach Chris Pollard lifted Grant for Chad Farmer, who walked Ross and then surrendered a pinch-hit single to Foster, his 5th RBI.
That was plenty of cushion for Aaron Nola.
Taking over in the eighth inning, Nola breezed through two scoreless frames. He struck out 4, one after Rhymes muffed a routine fly ball in left field for a three-base error. Nola threw 29 pitches, 21 for strikes.
In 5 innings covering three appearances, Nola has permitted one hit and one run while striking out 8 without a walk.
“I’m just sitting there waiting until my name gets called,” Nola said. “I try to look at each hitter and see what their weaknesses are.”
The Tigers and ASU resume the series at 2 p.m. Saturday, with Ryan Eades slated to match up with Mountaineers’ senior righty Ryan Arrowood.