Conner Hale has proven himself worthy enough to man the hot corner. Paul Mainieri was already comfortable with that decision before Saturday’s game against Baylor, but Hale’s play against the Bears solidified it.
Hale recorded five assists against Baylor, including all three outs in the seventh inning to preserve a scoreless tie.
“Boy, the third base position has been a little bit of an Achilles’ heel for us, but I think we’ve found our third baseman,” Mainieri said. “Hale put on a clinic out there today. I made that decision long before he made those plays today. That just solidifies it. He’s going to be our guy at third base.”
Hale will replace Danny Zardon as the regular third baseman moving forward. Zardon had committed four errors at third in 10 starts at that position. That caused Mainieri to reassess things, and he opted to go with Hale at third entering this weekend.
Hale played third in junior college, but had spent his LSU career on the right side of the infield. After his performance Saturday though, he’s starting to find his footing on the left side.
“It took me a couple games to get a little comfortable over there,” Hale said. “But I’m feeling good now.”
CONTROVERSIAL CALLS AT THE PLATE
Mainieri doesn’t often leave the dugout to argue with umpires. But two plays Saturday forced the LSU coach to leave his bench.
The first came in the second inning. Andrew Stevenson sent a single to right, and Hale rounded third trying to score from second. He dove headfirst into the plate, but the umpire ruled he’d been tagged out.
Replays showed that the catcher may have missed Hale altogether.
The second play brought even more fire out of Mainieri.
Kramer Robertson attempted to score on a single by Mark Laird in the third. He dove toward the plate but was blocked away by Baylor catcher Cameron Miller. Robertson couldn’t get a hand on the dish, and was tagged out to end the inning.
Mainieri tried to argue that the catcher was obstructing the plate.
“It’s been a point of emphasis, even in the big leagues,” Mainieri said. “I don’t know where our runner was able to slide. I thought [the catcher] kind of stuck his leg out to block the plate… I can understand if you’re in the act of catching it and it takes you in front of the plate, but if you’re already in front of the plate and then you’re sticking your leg out. The runner has to have the opportunity to reach home plate if he’s not allowed to barrel the catcher over.”
Mainieri’s argued to no avail, as the umpire upheld the call.
KRAMER BEATS THE HOMETOWN TEAM
Kramer Robertson has a strong connection to the team he helped beat Saturday. The son of Baylor women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, Robertson grew up around that program.
His RBI in the ninth extended LSU’s lead to two runs. Robertson also reached base in all four at-bats, with two walks and two singles.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited,” Robertson said. “It’s pretty cool getting to play against my hometown team. I have a lot of respect for their program.”
He said his mom will forgive him for beating the school that signs her paychecks.
“She’s happy anytime we win, and anytime I do well, no matter who it is. She’s going to support me, no matter who we play.”
He had a text message from Mom waiting for him after the game, even though Mulkey’s Lady Bears are in the midst of the Big XII Tournament.
“She keeps up with it. She has her assistants tell her during the game. She cares just as much as we do.”
LATZ PLAYS CATCH
Freshman pitcher Jake Latz took a big step toward returning to the mound.
Latz hasn’t pitched since before the season started as LSU decided to shut him down with soreness in his throwing elbow. He hadn’t even picked up a baseball until Thursday.
Mainieri said the freshman played catch and all signs are positive for now.
“He felt great,” Mainieri said. “He wanted to keep throwing but we shut him down after 25 throws because that was the instruction of the doctor. We’ll go in Monday and have an MRI, see what it looks like.”