Laird occupied the leadoff spot and didn’t have a hit through the first two games. Mainieri didn’t like that Laird was popping out as often as he did, because with his speed, putting the ball on the ground always gives Laird a chance to reach base.
So Mainieri told him to do the things he’s done so well throughout his LSU career.
“He got the message,” Mainieri said. “He was really a man possessed out there.”
Laird had three hits Sunday, including a pair of singles the opposite way — something he made an art form last season. He scored all three times he reached base, serving as the table setter Mainieri wants as his leadoff man.
That was one of Sunday’s highlights for Mainieri along with the performance from Conner Hale, who went 3-for-4 with 3 RBI. He only had two hits and two RBI in nine plate appearances the two days prior.
“When Laird and Hale are doing what they can do, it really makes a big difference for our offense,” Mainieri said. “Those two guys really make our offense go.”
Mainieri never lost confidence in having those two occupy the first and third spots in his batting order. But Sunday’s performances do help him rest a bit easier.
“I’ve always felt good about them being one and three in the lineup,” he said. “That’s never been a question. They’ve played enough baseball that I know what they can do. It’s just nice to see them go out there and do it.”
ONE TO GROW ON FOR GODFREY
Jake Godfrey probably envisioned a better stat line for his LSU debut.
The freshman pitcher lasted only 3 2/3 innings, walked three and gave up three runs (one earned). The defense did commit three errors behind him, and that contributed to his elevated pitch count — 87 total.
But adversity equals experience, and that’s more valuable for a young pitcher than numbers.
“That’s growing, that’s experience,” Godfrey said. “That’s what Mainieri wants us to get, and he throws us in those situations. He wants those experiences to happen, and it happened.”
Godfrey’s next opportunity to throw will come Saturday against Boston College, as Mainieri moves each man up a day in the rotation. That’ll give each one — Alex Lange and Jared Poché included — a Friday night start, and Godfrey gets his against Princeton.
Mainieri saw Godfrey’s debut more positively than the numbers suggested. He was more focused on how the young hurler dealt with it.
“He didn’t pitch as poorly as he might’ve felt he did,” Godfrey said. “Obviously the infield defense hurt him. Some of it was his own undoing…But I also saw some great qualities. I wanted to see how he handled adversity, and I thought he handled it well. We gave him an “A” for poise, composure and maturity on the mound.”
ANOTHER DEBUT ON THE MOUND
Another true freshman will make his debut on the mound Wednesday.
Doug Norman is set to get the start against Nicholls State, with first pitch set for 6 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium. It’s been a couple years since LSU had a legitimate midweek starter, turning instead to “Johnny Wholestaff” to get through those games.
Now Mainieri’s hoping that Norman can be that guy. He wants to get at least five innings out of him Wednesday.
“That would be wonderful if he did,” Mainieri said. “He’d have to pitch well to do so…It’s his first career opportunity, and hopefully he’ll go out there and pitch well.”
Norman didn’t come out of high school with the lofty draft projections that Lange and Godfrey had. His fastball mostly sits in the upper-80s and he relies heavily on his sinker.
He’s just anxious to show his stuff to the LSU faithful.
“Ever since the coaches told me I’d be starting about a week ago, it’s felt like a year,” Norman said. “I’m glad it’s finally coming around.”
HERE COME THE COLONELS
Mainieri expects Nicholls State’s best shot Wednesday night. The Colonels (2-1) are coming off a series win against Stony Brook, and they’ll send to the mound a senior that threw three perfect innings of relief this past weekend.
“We have a very formidable opponent coming in Nicholls State,” Mainieri said. “I’ve watched their program since I’ve been here, and they’ve continually improved. They have an outstanding coach now. They have players I’m familiar with, and they’re good players. So it’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Aside from Norman getting the start for LSU, Mainieri also wants to make sure that Parker Bugg and Hunter Devall get in the game. Those two have combined to throw just one pitch this season, and Mainieri expects both to be key bullpen contributors this season.
As for the lineup, Mainieri plans to start the guys that give him the best chance to win. That’s still something he’s trying to figure out.
“I’m not really sure who the horses are yet,” Mainieri said. “I still think we’ve got 13 or 14 guys we can run out there and feel very confident about them playing. Tinkering is maybe the right word, but we want to look at all the guys and when we go into the SEC, we’ll know we’re playing the right guys.”