The runs weren't plentiful, but the Tigers mustered just enough offense to get the 2-0 victory against New Orleans on Friday night in Alex Box Stadium. Alex Bregman drove in the go-ahead run in the third inning, and the Tigers rode dominant outings from Aaron Nola and the rest of the pitchers to get the opening win.
Paul Mainieri. "It wasn't really a thing of beauty…It just feels different the first night out. This was the first time out there against someone new, and it takes a while to get adjusted.
The Tigers hadn't recorded a hit until 2B Conner Hale opened the third inning with a single to right. LF Mark Laird moved him to third with a hit-and-run double down the left field line. Bregman, the next batter, brought him home with a single in the gap between first and second base.
"My teammates got on base in front of me, and put me in a good situation to hit," Bregman said. "I was just trying to get a pitch that I could put a good swing on."
LSU would score once more in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by DH Kade Scivicque. 3B Christian Ibarra was the one to come around to score after opening the inning with a double over the third base bag.
The Tigers had other opportunities, but failed to come through with the clutch hits. LSU stranded three runners on third base, including an inning-ending pop fly by Bregman to end the sixth with the bases loaded.
LSU managed seven hits as a team with Bregman and Hale the only Tigers with multiple knocks on the night.
"We didn't really come through with a lot of clutch hits, and we hit an awful lot of pop ups," Mainieri said. "Obviously there's a lot of room for improvement, and we'll make it."
In four different innings, UNO managed to get runners in scoring position off Nola. Only one was able to get past second base though, but the Privateers stranded him on third in the top of the fourth.
"It wasn't really what I expected, to be honest," said Nola, who did hit three batters Friday. "My fastball felt good, but the inside of the plate wasn't where I want it to be. Everything else was pretty good, but I'm still just trying to get a better feel on my curveball and changeup."
After Nola came Joe Broussard, who made his first appearance since the 2012 season. Broussard took a while to get used to being back on the mound, walking his first batter on four pitches.
"It wasn't really jitters, it had just been 19 months since I'd been out there," said Broussard, who missed the entire 2013 season after Tommy John's surgery. "I had to step out there and take a couple deep breaths."
Broussard rebounded nicely, getting the next three batters in order to end the seventh, capped off by his first strikeout of the season. He tossed a perfect eighth to finish two innings of scoreless baseball.
"I'm glad that I had that first outing to get it out of the way," Broussard said. "Now next time I won't have to deal with jitters or anything like that. It's back to the baseball. No more 19 months off. I'm back to where I'm supposed to be."
Kurt McCune entered for LSU in the ninth inning, clinging to a 2-0 lead. He and Broussard are the two of a handful of pitchers still competing for the closer spot. McCune made his case, tossing a perfect final inning with a pair of strikeouts to seal the victory.
"Kurt McCune did a really nice job," Mainieri said. "He made a couple of big pitches there in the ninth inning on full counts."
The Tigers will head to Metairie on Saturday for the second of two games against UNO. First pitch is set for 4 p.m. at Zephyr Field, and Kyle Bouman will make his first start as a Tiger. LSU will finish the weekend Sunday against Grambling back at Alex Box.
LSU will look for a better offensive outing Saturday, and Mainieri's optimistic the low production Friday was just a fluke.
"I'm not going to panic about the way we hit tonight," Mainieri said. "I know what I see everyday in practice. These guys can hit, and they'll be fine. I'm glad we got the win, and tip your hat to UNO."