LSU warms up in chilly nightcap

The second game of Saturday's doubleheader between LSU and Long Beach was nearly a polar opposite of the first. The weather was simply polar. After a warm and balmy opener that saw their bats go cold at times, the Tigers warmed up for a season-high three home runs in a 10-2 nightcap win over the 49ers. The win improved LSU to 9-4 for the season and tied the series at a game a piece heading into Sunday's finale scheduled for 1 p.m. at Alex Box Stadium.

The contrast in games wasn't lost on LSU head coach Smoke Laval, whose team seemed to change identities with Long Beach. After the Tigers allowed 12 hits and committed two key errors in the opener, the self-dubbed Dirtbags made six errors and served up 13 hits to LSU.

"The first game it's 75 degrees. We're in short sleeves wearing sunglasses," Laval said. "Long Beach was in charge of that game.

"We come back out for the second game, it's cold, blah. We become Long Beach State. We were in charge of the game."

The Tigers provided all the runs they needed in the first two innings, allowing starting pitcher Lane Mestepey (W, 2-0) to shackle Long Beach through the duration of his outing. In eight innings, the sophomore lefthander held the visitors to one run on five hits with eight strikeouts.

Long Beach's six errors were the undoing of starting pitcher Daniel Eisentrager (L, 3-1), who took a scoreless streak of 12.1 innings into the game. He saw that run end in LSU's very first at-bat when with one out, third baseman Wally Pontiff launched a shot over the fence in right field for his second homer of the year and a 1-0 LSU lead.

Pontiff finished the night 3-for-5 with two RBI.

"We started feeling our swings," said Pontiff. "We seem to play better when Mestepey's on the mound. He gets our confidence going.

Laval concurred with his team captain.

"Lane's a competitor. He doesn't like to lose," said the head coach. "We're in (the locker room) between games, having sandwiches and all and Lane's in there mad as a hornet. The other guys see that and wonder why's he mad. They feed off of it."

LSU extended its lead in the second inning with two runs. Following a leadoff single from left fielder Matt Heath and a one-out base hit from second baseman Blake Gill, catcher Chris Phillips powered a double to left center that scored both base runners.

The only run Long Beach posted against Mestepey came in the fourth inning when right fielder Nick Covarrubias led off with a double down the left field line. After a groundout moved him to third, 49ers' third baseman Todd Jennings hit a bouncer toward second that Gill charged in on only to have it go over his head and into right field. Covarrubias scored on the play to cut LSU's lead to 3-1.

Long Beach seemed poised to add to its total when an error on LSU shortstop J.C. Holt placed 49ers on first and second, but Mestepey got left fielder Chris Wright to hit into a double play to end the fourth.

"It was important for me to keep my pitch count down," said Mestepey. "I just wanted to get my first two pitches inside and let (Long Beach) put the ball in play."

Two more LSU runs came across in the fifth inning on a home run from first baseman Jason Vargas – the second of the season for the true freshman. It came with two outs after Eisentrager was called for a balk that scored center fielder David Raymer from third.

The was more two-out trouble for Long Beach in the sixth when two errors charged to second baseman Nick Orlandos led to three LSU runs crossing the play. Eisentrager was pulled after a Wally Pontiff single made the score 9-1.

The Tigers added another run in the eighth on Raymer's solo homer to right field, his first of the season.

Long Beach first baseman led off the ninth with a home run against LSU reliever Lukas Guidroz for the final score.

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