The hitters saved the day Thursday in LSU’s come-from-behind victory against Southeastern Louisiana. It was a different story Friday as the pitchers carried the load in a nail biter with Princeton, with LSU pulling out a 3-2 victory.
LSU held Princeton to six hits while LSU collected only four of its own, but that was just enough run production to pull out the win. Still, Paul Mainieri wants a more inspired performance from his team during Saturday’s doubleheader.
“The energy level wasn’t what it needed to be tonight,” Mainieri said. “Some guys played great…We did a few things, but we didn’t swing the bats with the aggressiveness we’ve become accustomed to the last several games. But this is the way baseball is…One day it might be the pitching, one day it might be the hitting, and sometimes you put it all together.”
It was LSU that struck first with a pair of runs in the third. Jared Foster got it started by reaching on an error to lead off the inning. He advanced to second on a balk and tagged to third on a pop fly to right.
Jake Fraley — who had the game-winning hit Thursday — drove in Foster with a single to center. He would steal both second and third before scoring on a throwing error by the catcher, who tried to catch him at third.
Fraley found himself in the lineup as Andrew Stevenson took an extra night off to rest his tender hamstring. Fraley hit out of the leadoff spot for only the second time in his career, going 2-for-4 with an RBI and run scored.
“I guess you could say it inspired me, but it doesn’t change my mentality at all,” Fraley said of hitting leadoff. “It’s just where I’m hitting in the batting order.”
LSU has shown more aggression on the base paths this season, and the Tigers finished with four stolen bases Friday, though they were also caught twice.
“We want to be aggressive bags this year,” Fraley said. “And everyone’s starting to get the gist of that.”
Princeton would cut the deficit in half its next offensive inning. 2B Danny Hoy got a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on a RBI-single by 1B Zach Belski.
LSU would respond with a run of its own in the bottom of that frame. Alex Bregman walked to lead off the inning. He stole second and came around to score with a RBI-single by Conner Hale.
That was all the cushion LSU needed, though Princeton did provide some threats.
Princeton got a run back against Jared Poché with a solo home run in the fifth. That was one of only a few blemishes on Poché’s night.
He finished the game with five strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings, surrendering two earned runs on six hits. He earned his third win in as many opportunities.
“Poché was outstanding,” Mainieri said. “He worked fast and threw a lot of strikes…Poché was up to the challenge. He made some really big pitches and did an incredible job. He gave his team a chance to win when we weren’t hitting the ball a lot.”
The LSU bullpen took over from there. After a rough night Thursday, the Tiger relievers were much more solid Friday.
Alden Cartwright entered with a pair of runners in scoring position with two outs in the seventh. He got the only batter he faced to pop out to center and end the threat.
Zac Person worked around an error in the eighth, and Jesse Stallings struck out the side in the ninth to earn his fifth save of the season.
“Last night our bullpen really struggled,” Mainieri said. “And today they come out and they were awesome. Cartwright, Person, Stallings, they all followed Poché’s leadership. Our pitching carried us tonight.”
LSU returns to action Saturday for a doubleheader. LSU moved series finale up a day to avoid inclement weather forecasted for Sunday. Jake Godfrey will pitch the first leg with Alex Lange set to take the finale.
“I challenged them for tomorrow to come out and play a complete game in every facet. Play with a high level of energy, good defense and pitch great. Hopefully we’ll play a lot better tomorrow.”
LSU squeeks out win vs. Princeton, 3-2
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