One to remember

The fireworks lit up the sky and excited the crowd following the pre-game ceremony for the first game at the New Alex Box Stadium, but there wasn't much excitement for the next two hours. Things picked up, though, when Blake Dean stepped up to the plate and brought the crowd to their feet with a three-run homer to right and LSU cruised to a 12-3 win over Villanova.


The actual attendance for the season opener was 9,054 but several thousand of those fans were gone when Dean hit the first home run at the Tigers’ new home.


“I knew it was going to be close but with the higher wall I didn’t know if it was going to get out of here,” Dean said. “He had me 0-2 and he hung a curveball inside that was basically a perfect pitch to hit out.”


Prior to Dean’s shot there were very few offensive highlights for the Tigers.


Pitching was a different story as Louis Coleman was his typical dominant self and held Villanova to only two hits in five innings of work in picking up the win. The plan was to have Coleman go four or five innings and throw 75 pitches, and he threw 74 on the night before Nolan Cain relieved him to start the sixth inning.


Coleman retired the Wildcats in order in two of the five innings and struck out eight while walking two.


“He did exactly what I hoped he would do,” Mainieri said. “I’ve been saying it for a few months and this is why I wanted to start Coleman in this game. I thought that his experience would lend to him having tremendous poise under the circumstances and he would pump a lot of strikes in there.”


LSU had only four hits in the first four innings but jumped on Villanova early with four runs in the first inning. Jared Mitchell had a two-out two-run single to center that plated Ryan Schimpf and Micah Gibbs then Villanova left fielder Matt McFolling lost a ball in the lights off the bat of Sean Ochinko that scored D. J. LeMahieu and Mitchell.


“Jared Mitchell came through with a big hit in the first inning and Dean got us off to a good start,” said Mainieri… “The combination of getting a couple of hits in that first inning and Coleman settling in and dominating the game kind of gave our kids a chance to get used to playing again. I think it relaxed them and Louis did everything that I hoped he would do.”


The Tigers added a run in the second after Derek Helenihi singled to right to lead off the inning and came around to score on a balk. One inning later LeMahieu laced a one-out triple into the gap in right field that got past a diving Joe Cotter. Mitchell followed with a soft grounder to short and Tyler Sciacca had no play at the plate or at first that scored LeMahieu for Mitchell’s third RBI of the night.


“We came out and got rid of the jitters with the new stadium and had some fun,” Mitchell said. “The timing was a little different and we had to do some things a lot earlier so it will be good to get back to our regular schedule tomorrow.”


Trailing 9-0 after six innings, Villanova finally got on the board in the seventh with three runs on three consecutive hits and a passed ball. Cain bounced back and retired the Wildcats in order in the eighth before giving way to Ryan Byrd for the final frame.


The Tigers added two more runs in the eighth and one more in the ninth to cap off a night that Mainieri and the Tigers will always remember.


“It was really amazing,” Mainieri said. “I was so proud of our guys that they were able to maintain their focus and play the game. I thought they played pretty well. Certainly, we can play better but I thought they played pretty well.”


“Overall, there’s definitely room for improvement but for the first game we’ll take it,” added Mainieri.


LSU banged out 10 hits off five Villanova pitchers, while LSU's trio of Coleman, Cain and Byrd allowed only five hits.


Chris Pack, who allowed five runs but only one earned on four hits in four innings, suffered the loss for the Wildcats.


Game two of the series will be Saturday at 2 p.m. with Anthony Ranaudo set to take the mound for the Tigers against Villanova right hander Brian Streilein.



A night to remember


The big lead gave Paul Mainieri a chance to play some true freshmen and four of them got on the field in Austin Nola, Mikie Mahtook, Tyler Hanover and Grant Dozar.


The night will be memorable for all four but particularly Nola as the hometown boy from Catholic High School ripped a single to right field in his first at bat as a Tiger and later scored on a wild pitch.


Dozar walked in his first opportunity at the plate, while Hanover flied out to center. Mahtook replaced Leon Landry in center field, and was in the on-deck circle when Hanover flied out to end the eighth.

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