LSU overcomes slow start, beats Lehigh, 10-3

LSU came out sluggish but eventually rolled to a 10-3 victory against Lehigh to advance to the winners' bracket of the Baton Rouge regional.

It may be summer, but LSU still took a while to heat up Friday in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

A 2-hour, 17-minute rain delay that started in the middle of the first inning didn’t help much either. But the Tigers overcame Mother Nature and a two-run deficit to beat Lehigh, 10-3, and advance to the winner’s bracket of the Baton Rouge regional.

LSU remains perfect in regional opening games as a No. 1 seed with a 21-0 record all-time. The Tigers can win two consecutive games to advance to the Super Regional.

They return to action Saturday at 8 p.m. against No. 2 UNC-Wilmington.

“We didn’t play one of our better games of the year,” said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. “We need to play a lot better if we want to continue to win.”

LSU struggled early against Lehigh starter Nick Macaione, a soft-throwing lefty. The Tigers had just 2 hits through 3 innings while stranding 3 runners in scoring position.

“We knew coming in that he’s a good pitcher,” said LSU second baseman Jared Foster. “He had us on our toes, and we didn’t approach him like we should have.”

Those bats didn’t get hot until the fourth, when LSU opened the inning with a pair of singles. The Tigers faced a 2-0 lead but managed to tie it on a wild pitch and RBI-groundout.

LSU had to come from behind after Lehigh mounted a 2-0 lead against Austin Bain the top of the fourth. Bain did not start the game. He entered in the second after Alden Cartwright threw a perfect first before the weather halted play.

Bain cruised through his first two innings, allowing only one hit on a bunt.

He ran into some trouble in the fourth though. Lehigh opened the inning with a double, and an error by Foster gave the Mountain Hawks a 1-0 lead. Lehigh got one more double in the inning to go up 2-0.

But LSU wouldn’t stay down for long.

“We have the trust in our lineup to be able to come back in that situation,” said LSU left fielder Jake Fraley. “We got down early, but like we’ve done all season, we were able to come back and string together some big hits.”

LSU tied it in the bottom of that frame before finally igniting at the plate. That chased Macaione from the game, and the Tigers scored in each of the final five innings to pull away for good.

LSU finished with 10 runs on 13 hits.

“Once [Macaione] left the game, and they had more traditional pitchers with more velocity, we started to have better at-bats after that,” Mainieri said. “But the numbers are a little misleading. I really wasn’t pleased with our effort overall.”

LSU went ahead in the fifth on an RBI-single by Kade Scivicque.

The Tigers would take a four-run lead with three more in the sixth. Fraley kicked it off with a leadoff single, and Chris Sciambra followed that with an RBI-double. Foster reached on a bunt, and Lehigh intentionally walked Alex Bregman to load the bases.

That bit Lehigh though as the Mountain Hawks walked in a run, and LSU scored another on a groundout to make it 6-2 after six innings.

Lehigh would get one more run back in the seventh, but LSU quickly answered with two of its own in the bottom of the inning. Sciambra brought in one with a sacrifice fly and the other scored on a wild pitch, the Mountain Hawks’ third of the game, to make it 8-3.

LSU tacked on two more in the eighth for good measure. Conner Hale reached on an infield single, stole second and scored on an RBI-double by Andrew Stevenson. He came in on Chris Chinea’s sacrifice fly to right.

“We did get some good hits late in the game,” Mainieri said. “But we’re going to need to play a lot better tomorrow.”

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