Three innings into Wednesday’s LSU game against ULL, the Tigers weren’t doing much wrong at Alex Box Stadium.
The only thing that could’ve slowed LSU down, well, it did.
An unexpected rain shower arrived a little too late for the Cajuns, as the 12th-ranked Tigers constructed an early lead and cruised to a 5-0 victory after a delay of 1:17.
LSU (19-6) collected only one hit in its final 18 at-bats, but the five hits the Tigers managed before then generated all the offense they needed.
That was assured because 10 LSU pitchers combined to limit ULL (13-11) to three hits in the Tigers’ seventh shutout this season.
“When we get an early lead like that with a couple of big swings, everybody kind of breathes easy,” first baseman Grant Dozar said. “We didn’t do much after the rain delay, but we had the nice lead and that was enough with the way our guys pitched.”
|Grant Dozar: Second HR chases in three runs.|
Dozar delivered the biggest blow of the first three innings after Mason Katz got LSU off on the right foot.
After Cajuns’ pitcher Austin Robichaux got two quick outs in the first inning, Katz pumped a solo home run to left field on a 1-1 offering, his team-best 5th of the season.
The Tigers scratched out another run in the first when Raph Rhymes laced the first of his three singles, Dozar walked and ULL shortstop Ryan Leonards fielded a ground ball off Austin Nola’s bat and threw wide to first base.
Katz drew a leadoff walk in the third inning and Rhymes rapped a base hit to left field just before a light rain began to fall. Dozar wasted no time, blasting the first pitch he got from Robichaux after Rhymes’ hit into the right-center field bleachers, his second homer of the season.
Nola greeted reliever Derek Howell by dumping a single into left field and moved up on Ty Ross’ bunt before the skies opened up with a steady rain for an hour that halted the game.
That was all the LSU offense got, and all it needed.
Starting with junior Joe Broussard for the first two innings, the Tiger pitchers were in control from the beginning. Broussard, who got the win as the declared starter, faced seven batters and didn’t allow a hit while striking out three.
In his only appearance out of the bullpen last weekend, Broussard walked the first and only hitter he faced on four pitches.
|Broussard: Sharp in first 2 innings to set tone for LSU's 7th shutout.|
“I was just wanting to go out there, get the ball and get that last game out of my head,” Broussard said after logging his third victory. “I wanted chance to be successful.”
ULL’s only real threat came in the sixth inning when Carson Baranik walked the first hitter he faced and then allowed back-to-back singles to Tyler Frederick and Jace Conrad – the Cajuns’ first of the night – to load the bases.
Baranik struck out Dylan Butler (6 HRs and 29 RBIs this season) for the second out and then gave way to left-hander Chris Cotton. Like he did Sunday against Auburn, Cotton bailed LSU out when he got cleanup hitter Chase Compton (.378 batting average coming in) on a sharply hit chopper to Dozar at first base, a pitch and result LSU coach Paul Mainieri deemed the game’s turning point.
Other than that uprising, ULL never sent more than four hitters to the plate in an inning. Tiger pitchers recorded 12 strikeouts and got the Cajuns in order five times.
“Our pitchers did a great job,” Katz said. “Joe went out there and set a good tone.”
Now LSU will see how much of a tone the tidy win against the Cajuns will be in the toughest test of the season so far when No. 3-ranked Arkansas comes to the Box this weekend, with the series starting at 7 p.m. Friday.