With the bar set pretty high a few days earlier by his freshman teammate, LSU right-hander Kevin Gausman came out with a purpose Friday night when the 11th-ranked Tigers began a full weekend of baseball at Alex Box Stadium.
Gausman turned in his best performance of the season, striking out a career-high 11 and surrendering only two hits in eight innings as LSU stuffed Michigan 6-0.
The Tigers (12-2) rolled up 12 hits against UM pitcher Brandon Sinnery, who tossed a complete game in the loss, paced by Raph Rhymes (3-for-4, 2 RBIs), Grant Dozar (2-for-3, 2 RBIs) Ty Ross (2-for-4, RBI) and Austin Nola (2-for-4).
LSU pushed four runs across in the fourth inning and tacked on two in the eighth on Dozar’s two-out, two-run double to give Gausman (4-0) plenty of breathing room.
And he didn’t need much help on a night when the Wolverines struggled to catch up with most everything he threw.
|Raph Rhymes: 3 hits and first 2 RBIs of the night|
“When Gausman is on the mound, we know he’s going to give us a great chance,” said Rhymes, whose two-run single popped the cork on the scoring. “If you scratch out a run or two, that’s usually going to be enough for him.”
The Wolverines (6-7) would’ve settled for just a few more hits.
Michigan’s only base knocks came from cleanup hitter Brett Winger to start the second inning and John Lorenz’s wicked liner up the middle that caromed off the back of Gausman’s leg.
Between those two hits, Gausman mowed down 19 straight Wolverines, highlighted by a dazzling stretch when he struck out six in a row.
Friday’s performance came after LSU rookie Aaron Nola suffocated Tulane for eight innings in a 5-0 shutout, an outing Gausman charted from the dugout.
“I kind of wanted to prove that us weekend guys have him beat,” Gausman said with a smile.
“I felt good felt really comfortable out there. Everything was just really clicking.”
The Wolverines made Gausman work a little in the first inning, forcing him to throw 17 pitches by working deep into counts.
That seemed to get Gausman focused in mixing his pitches more efficiently.
“Every team is going to be really aggressive because my fast ball is what I’m known for,” he said. “I’ve got to mix in different pitches and keep them off balance.”
Sinnery did just that for three innings, retiring nine of the first 10 Tigers he faced.
JaCoby Jones finally got LSU revved up when he started the fourth frame by rifling a single to center field and that was the fuse the Tigers needed lit. Mason Katz jerked a base hit to left field, and on the first pitch to Rhymes, both runners broke on a hit-and-run. The pitch was high and outside, but Rhymes swung and missed, allowing both runners to advance safely for a double steal.
On Sinnery’s next offering, Rhymes punched a single to left-center field for a 2-0 Tigers’ cushion.
“(Sinnery) was in the zone a lot, and he had control of every pitch and that made it tough,” Rhymes said after bumping his average to a team-best .481. He also leads the team with 20 RBIs. “We had to come out and put some good consistent at-bats together.”
Rhymes had company in that regard.
Nola laced a hit-and-run single to put runners on the corner, and Tyler Hanover laid down a squeeze bunt that Sinnery fielded cleanly but his toss to the plate was a fraction late and Rhymes slid in.
Dozar bunted Nola and Hanover up a base and Ross dumped an opposite-field single to right field for the fourth run.
|Grant Dozar: 2 doubles, 2 RBIs and a sacrifice bunt to set up a run|
The Tigers threatened again in the fifth when Rhymes and Nola singled with two outs, but Sinnery wiggled off the hook without any damage. He wasn’t as fortunate in the right when Rhymes legged out a double to left field to start the at-bat, Hanover reached on a hit-by-pitch and Dozar collected his second double into the left-field corner to plate both runners.
That was plenty for Gausman and reliever Joey Bourgeois – who tossed a perfect ninth inning – who combined for LSU’s second straight shutout and fifth of the season.
In his longest stint of the season, Gausman threw 100 pitches and retired 24 of the 26 hitters he faced, 21 of the final 22.
“Kevin was just masterful (Friday),” Tigers coach Paul Mainieri said. “He pumped strikes into the zone and had all of his pitches working. We had the big four-run fourth inning, and that gave Kevin the cushion he needed.”
LSU and Michigan will square off again at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. The Wolverines will be in action earlier Saturday against Notre Dame at noon.