Tigers blank Vandy in SEC opener

LSU was looking for a boost in offense in its Southeastern Conference opener against Vanderbilt following a midweek drought at the plate. But as it turned out, one run would have been enough for the Tigers thanks to one of their strongest pitching performance of the season. <br> Junior right-hander Bo Pettit led the Tigers to a 6-0 win with a complete game shutout, allowing only four hits and striking out 12 batters.

The Commodores' starter, freshman Jeremy Sowers, a first round draft pick of the Cincinnati Reds last summer, kept pace with Pettit, striking out eight in 7 innings. But he gave up all six runs, including home runs to Tigers Wally Pontiff and Sean Barker.

"Bo Pettit. Bottom line tonight," LSU head coach Smoke Laval said after the game. "We had to get a win tonight, and I'm glad for Bo he deserved it."

"I knew I had to be on top of my game tonight," said Pettit. "I worked off of my fastball, and my curve was really working for me."

Pontiff provided the winning run for the Tigers in the bottom of the first inning with a sacrifice fly to deep left field that scored shortstop

Aaron Hill from third base.

The Tigers added to their lead in the third. Hill got on, but was picked off for the second out of the inning at first on a somewhat questionable pickoff move by Sowers.

Next, designated Eric Wiethorn beat the play to first on a short dribbler. Sowers tried his pickoff move again, only this time he was called for a balk and Wiethorn was given second base with Pontiff at bat.

Pontiff proceeded to belt a home run over the right field wall near the scoreboard, giving LSU a 3-0 advantage.

"I knew something good was going to happen after that balk," Pontiff said.

Pettit built more momentum for himself and the team in the next inning, striking out all three Commodore batters in convincing fashion.

"I knew I needed to say ahead in the count on guys," said Pettit. "It's something we all need to work on. When I got two strikes on somebody, I had to bury them."

Pettit and Sowers battled for the next five innings with each team failing to get a rally going.

"Sowers is really good I'm glad we got him early in the season like this,"

Laval said.

It was in the eighth inning that LSU landed the knockout punch. Wiethorn sliced a line drive that hugged the first base line. The ball escaped Vandy first baseman Sean Luellwitz and just managed to stay fair.

Wiethorn managed to get a double on the play and was replaced by pinch runner J.C. Holt. Pontiff was then intentionally walked, and a wild pitch by Sowers advanced both runners one base.

After Clay Harris struck out, Barker came to the plate and blasted a three-run homer to the left field bleachers.

With a 6-0 lead, Laval decided to let an obviously tired Pettit try to finish what he started by going to the mound in the top of the ninth.

"He (Pettit) deserved that," said Laval.

Though he did walk the first batter (only his second on the night) Pettit struck out two more batters. Wally Pontiff got the final out of the game with a diving catch of a line drive by Commodore designated hitter John Prothro.

"I wasn't really worried. It's nice to have a six run lead," Pettit said.

Pettit's shutout was the first complete game shutout since Brian Tallet blanked Kentucky 9-0 during the 2000 season. Ninety-three of Pettit's 141 pitches went for strikes, and his pitches averaged ninety miles per hour for the first seven innings.

"I thought (Bo) was incredible," said Pontiff. "I thought he was Greg Maddux out there tonight."

Barker led all Tiger hitters, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs, all coming off his eighth inning home run. Hill, making just his second position start in the last month, and Wiethorn both went 2 for 4. Wally Pontiff was 1 for 2 with 3 RBIs.

The win improved LSU's record to 14-6 and start SEC play 1-0. Pettit improved to 2-2, picking up his first win in a month.

It was an important win for Laval's team, which has lost a few close games as of late thanks to defensive struggles.

"I knew we'd play with more intensity tonight. We knew we had to pick it up for SEC competition." Pontiff said.

"We looked more at ease tonight," Laval said. "We didn't have that 'waiting-to-lose' look in our eyes."

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