LSU sweeps Houston College Classic

LSU beat Nebraska, 4-2, on Sunday at Minute Maid Park to cap off a perfect weekend at the Houston College Classic

HOUSTONLSU certainly enjoyed its time at Minute Maid Park.

The Tigers passed their first big test of the season, sweeping all three games of the Houston College Classic. LSU capped it off Sunday with a 4-2 victory against Nebraska after beating Houston and Baylor the previous two games.

LSU will enter SEC play next weekend against Ole Miss riding a 12-game winning streak with a midweek tilt against McNeese set for Wednesday.

The Tigers are catching fire at the right time.

“We were inspired by our fans, honestly,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “Knowing they came all of the way over here and were with us and really into the games, it really inspired our players to go out and play well for them.”

LSU’s starting pitchers were the highlight in all three games, with Jake Godfrey following the lead of Jared Poché and Alex Lange on Sunday. The freshman went a career-high seven innings, surrendering just two runs on eight hits. He struck out four and limited his walks to only two, his lowest total of the season.

“I thought he overcame a lot today,” Mainieri said. “The umpire had a pretty tight strike zone on him…But he pitched a tremendous ball game. Each time he’s pitched, he’s gotten better and better.”

Godfrey did get off to a rocky start though, giving up a run in a 25-pitch first inning. Nebraska LF Luis Alvarado got a one-out single, and Godfrey walked Blake Headley two at-bats later. DH Ben Miller drove the run home with a single to center.

But Godfrey dialed in after that.

He retired 11 straight at one point, starting with a sacrifice bunt for the first out in the second. He had three consecutive perfect innings after that.

“Something just clicked emotionally, and I went out and attacked after the first,” Godfrey said. “I just went out and attacked the zone. I felt like the first inning I just wasn’t all there, and after that I settled in and was cruising.”

Godfrey did have to work out of some trouble in the seventh with LSU clinging to a 3-1 lead.

Headley singled to start the inning, and Miller took his place on the base paths after a fielder’s choice. C Tanner Lubach reached when Conner Hale made an errant throw from third (ruled a hit). Godfrey then walked a batter to load the bases with one out.

Nebraska got a run on him with a single to center by 1B Austin Christensen. But Godfrey escaped any more damage, inducing a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and preserve the one-run lead.

Godfrey’s pitch-count had surpassed the 100-pitch mark, but Mainieri opted to leave him in and work out of the jam.

“You can’t be surprised,” Godfrey said of getting left out there. “You have to be in the moment and just do it. Afterward, you can look back and think, ‘Wow, that was a big moment.’”

LSU took its lead with a two-run first inning.

Jake Fraley opened it with a single to center and Alex Bregman followed him two at-bats later with a one-out base hit to left. Chris Chinea brought in the first run with another single, then Hale followed that with a ground-rule double to right — his first of two RBI Sunday.

His other came on a groundout in the third that put LSU ahead 3-1. Hale finished the weekend with five RBI, starting at third base in all three games.

“I was just trying to drive the ball,” Hale said of his first RBI Sunday. “I honestly thought the right fielder was going to catch it, but it was able to get over his head for a ground-rule double.”

LSU would tack on one more insurance run in the eighth on an RBI-fielder’s choice by Grayson Byrd.

Zac Person and Parker Bugg combined to close out the eighth and ninth innings, with Bugg earning his first save of the season. That LSU bullpen hasn’t surrendered a run in 16 2/3 innings and only four hits during that stretch.

“The bullpen was air tight,” Mainieri said. “I don’t know what more you can ask out of those guys.”

LSU will return to Alex Box Stadium this week against McNeese State on Wednesday before hosting Ole Miss for a three-game series starting Friday.

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