The Tigers played through rain for most of the contest, but it never got hard enough to halt the action. LSU sent a record 11 pitchers to the mound and held the Cowboys to a five-hit shutout, while Alex Bregman contributed four RBI from the plate.
“We got everything done that we wanted to do,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We got through our non-conference schedule ready to go. It’s time to open up and turn our attention to the SEC.”
The LSU pitching staff continues to be the strength of the club. The Tiger relievers have now thrown 23 straight scoreless innings, dating back to Feb. 28 against Princeton.
The Tigers added seven more innings to that streak after Russell Reynolds went two scoreless in his first start since 2013.
Kyle Bouman, Doug Norman, Austin Bain, Hunter Devall, Collin Strall, Hunter Newman, Alden Cartwright, Parker Bugg, Zac Person and Jesse Stallings combined to take it the rest of the way.
McNeese State managed just five hits, struck out six times and left seven men on base. The biggest threat came in the seventh, when the Cowboys had a pair in scoring position with two outs, but Hunter Newman induced a pop fly in foul territory to end the inning.
“In this league, you can’t have weaknesses. They get exploited,” Mainieri said. “If you have a starting pitcher go seven innings, then your bullpen blows it, what good does that do you? But I feel good about our bullpen.”
Offensively, LSU strung together seven runs on eight hits.
Chris Chinea brought in one with a single in the first. Bregman tacked on three more with his third homer of the season in the third. Kade Scivicque’s sacrifice fly in the fourth made it 5-0.
Bregman drove in his fourth run with a SAC fly in the fifth, and the final run of the game came in on a Chris Sciambra groundout in the seventh.
LSU moves to 16-1, its best record to start SEC play since 1997. The Tigers play host to Ole Miss this weekend for a three-game series starting Friday.
“We’re just excited,” Mainieri said. “We’ve got a good team put together. We’re playing a good team…so we’re going to have a tremendous challenge.”
FOSTER STARTS AT SECOND
Mainieri wants to find a way to get Jared Foster in the lineup. He won’t sacrifice Jake Fraley in left field to do it, so Mainieri experimented with Foster at second base Wednesday.
Foster played second base in high school and appeared in one game as a freshman at that position back in 2012.
Foster made a pair of routine plays against McNeese State, but not much else. Mainieri said he’ll continue to play with the idea and see how it goes.
“We worked him out Tuesday and Wednesday, and I thought he looked good enough,” Mainieri said. “I’ll sleep on it tonight and see what we’ll do on the weekend.”
HALE’S STREAK SNAPPED
Conner Hale had recorded a hit in all 17 games before Wednesday’s against McNeese. He struck out twice and popped out to center in his first three at-bats.
He got one last chance in the eighth, but drilled a liner directly at the third baseman. He made the snag and ended Hale’s streak.
“Conner’s had a great hitting streak, but he doesn’t care,” Mainieri said. “He’ll hopefully start a new one Friday night.”
Mainieri provided updates after the game on injured pitchers Jake Latz and Brady Domangue.
Latz threw for the first time last week after struggling with elbow soreness since the fall. He underwent an MRI on Tuesday to inspect how his arm responded to throwing. Mainieri said the results were positive, and Latz will begin a five-week throwing program before he gets back on a mound.
“We’ll see how long after that it takes for him to pitch competitively,” Mainieri said.
The news wasn’t as positive for Domangue. He’s struggled with a chronic back problem throughout his college career that has limited him to only one appearance this season. Domangue met with a doctor Tuesday, who suggested the senior pitcher step away from baseball.
“I don’t know how much we’re going to push him,” Mainieri said. “I want him to be able to pitch to his son in 10 years. I don’t know if it’s worth it for him to push it. He’s going to be a part of the team, but he’s going to contemplate just how much he wants to push it…Your spine isn’t something to mess with, and we’ve maybe seen the last of him in a competitive environment.”