It wasn't easy, but LSU managed to chip away at Nicholls 2-0 lead built in the 5th inning over the course of the game to earn a 3-2 win at Alex Box Stadium, Skip Bertman Field on Tuesday night.
"Lot of credit goes to Nicholls. Their kids played outstanding, they were well-coached, their pitchers were really good," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "I thought Nicholls did a tremendous job. I thought it was a great baseball game. I don't care if it says Nicholls, TCU or Texas across their chests, that team played its hearts out."
It was very much a pitcher's battle for the first four innings as the two teams combined for three hits.
After LSU starter Zack Hess gave up two earned runs in the fifth inning, LSU's staff that included Hunter Kiel, Todd Peterson, Caleb Gilbert and Hunter Newman shut the Colonels out for the rest of the game. Kiel threw three strikeouts in 1.1 innings and Newman threw . Hess gave up three hits, a walk and hit a batter in 4.2 innings pitched.
Nicholls got Hess in trouble quickly in the fifth after the freshman pitcher hit Justin Holt and then Alex Tucker singled, advancing Holt to third. That's when Troy Cahill put on the squeeze play to score Holt and then Chet Niehaus singled to center, scoring Tucker. That ended Hess' night.
Catcher Nick Coomes stopped the bleeding in the fifth by picking off Niehaus trying to steal second base.
In the bottom of the fifth, LSU began working on the deficit as Kramer Robertson drove in Beau Jordan, who finished 3-for-3 on the night. Jordan came into the game in a bit of a slump, batting .154 and having been on the backup side of a battle in left field with Brennan Breaux.
In the sixth, it was pinch hitter Antoine Duplantis, who singled to left center to score Coomes, who had singled with two outs to get on base. That type of clutch hitting was welcome from Duplantis.
"That's awesome. These midweek games are always a grind, especially against these in-state teams that want to beat us really bad," Duplantis said. "The whole game, I was just trying to stay in the mindset that I was going to get my at-bat. Once I got that, I was just trying to put together a good at-bat and fortunately, I put a good swing on the ball.
"The whole time I was trying to stay loose and not zone out. When I got my chance, I was ready to go."
The Tigers got more clutch hitting from Greg Deichmann, who put the Tigers on top for good with a single through the left side to score Cole Freeman, who went 2-for-3 on the night. It was Deichmann's only hit of the night, but it was big.
The story of Jordan having a big game is something that will help continue the battle in left field as he works to shake out of the slump and improve his consistency.
"I had to sit back on my swings a little more. I did that tonight," Jordan said. "I just sat back on him. He was throwing outside to most of our hitters then coming inside. I got my pitch and didn't miss it tonight. It always helps having a 3-hit night. Hopefully, it gets rolling from here." http://www.scout.com/college/lsu/story/1757638-jordan-breaux-remain-lock...
Earlier this week, LSU announced pitcher Doug Norman was out for the season, but the Tigers got a big performance from the bullpen, which comforted Mainieri after the game. Norman was expected to be a setup man for LSU. LSU's bullpen combined for 4.1 innings, three strikeouts and gave up a hit.
Mainieri called on Newman to close things out in the ninth inning and while the senior gave up a hit, he got three Colonels to fly out to end the game.
"I thought that was Hunter's sharpest outing that he's had. The more work he gets, the better he'll keep getting," Mainieri said. "He was tremendous."
Nicholls starter Mike Hanchar went 4.1 innings, gave up four hits, a run and walked three batters.
Ahead of LSU's trip to Houston to face some of the top teams in the country, Mainieri was happy to see a crowd of over 11,000 (paid attendance) take in LSU's win while also featuring a game that wasn't a blowout.
"I think it was great that we had a tough, hard-fought game where we had to scratch and claw and play with a lot of poise and composure," Mainieri said. "We're going to go up there with a lot of confidence and have some fun."
LSU heads to Houston on Friday for the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic, where the Tigers will open against TCU at 7 p.m. before facing Baylor on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. CT and Texas Tech on Sunday at 10 a.m. CT. All games will be televised on FOX Sports Regional Networks.