Jitters, butterflies, nerves … those are all things athletes dread about season-opening events because those are the stuff of overmatched teams finding ways to hang around.
LSU took the diamond at Alex Box Stadium Saturday afternoon in a belated season opener and showed absolutely no hint of any of those against the Army Black Knights.
Junior pitcher Alex Lange began his final college season with a familiar-looking dominant outing, Greg Deichmann shrugged off whatever lingering effects remained from a broken cheek bone and the rest of the Tigers followed those veterans’ lead in a neatly wrapped 9-0 triumph.
Lange tossed 5 shutout innings, allowing only four singles, striking out six and never allowing the Army hitters any sense of comfort.
And the LSU ace didn’t have to wait long for a cushion.
After Lange mowed the Knights (0-2) down quickly in the opening half inning, the No. 3-ranked Tigers (1-0) quickly showed their diversity with the bats.
Cole Freeman punched a two-strike single to right-center field, stole second, motored to third when Army catcher Jon Rosoff’s throw caromed away and trotted home when Antoine Duplantis tapped out to first base for an RBI.
Kramer Robertson drew a walk against Arms starter Matt Ball and on a third consecutive changeup, Deichmann broke the seal on his season by depositing a two-run home run just to the right of the batter’s eye for a 3-0 LSU lead.
“We had some really good at-bats right out of the gate,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said, rattling off the Tigers’ 1st-inning execution like a proud papa.
“We were off to the races at that point.”
Meanwhile, the Knights never really got off the starting blocks vs. Lange.
Cleanup batter Jo McCarthy beat out a bunt single to open the 2nd, but Lange fanned two batters and Freeman snatched a ground ball for another out.
Army posed a minor threat in the 3rd when Josh White laced a clean single to center field and Jacob Hurtubise laid down another bunt for a hit after White stole second.
With runners on the corners, Kris Linder ripped a sharp ground ball to the right side that LSU freshman first baseman Jake Slaughter snared, stared White back to third and jabbed the bag for the second out. Lange escaped damage when he got Matt Hudgins on a liner to Coleman.
Slaughter added another memory to his scrapbook when he pounded a solo home run to left field on Ball’s first pitch of the 4th inning. He and fellow freshman Josh Smith both drew rave reviews.
“Oh my gosh, they were tremendous,” Lange said. “Josh played great over there and the first out of the season is to Slaughter. He makes that play and I think that took a weight off the bat and he went out and hit that home run.”
LSU blew the game wide open with a five-run 5th inning, with Freeman and Bryce Adams delivering RBI hits, Smith forcing in a run with a bases-loaded walk and Nick Coomes launching a sacrifice fly in his first D-I at-bat.
The Tigers generated only six hits, but three of their RBIs were on productive outs. All part of a game that Mainieri said he had trouble finding any fault with.
“I thought it was good solid outing to start the season,” he said. “Obviously Lange was very sharp. I thought he had great command of all his pitches and just looked terrific. We played great defense behind him.”
Added Lange, “Any time you get a 9-0 win, that’s a great way to start the season. Everybody played great and we got the jitters out. Now we’re ready to roll.”
Game 2 of the doubleheader is slated to starter just after 4 p.m.