Ranaudo pitched five strong innings to earn the victory and had it not been for a solo homer by Kyle Carver in the fourth he would have left the game with a goose egg on the board for the Wildcats.
Carver’s homer was the first that an LSU pitcher had given up in the new ball park, but that dinger was overshadowed by Leon Landry’s two homers to right-center that marked his first multi-homer game as a Tiger.
“It felt good just to go out and help the team win,” Landry said. “I felt like I had been swinging the bat well and to see the results is real encouraging.”
Villanova (0-2) touched Ranaudo, whose only other start was last season in the regular season finale at Auburn, for only three hits and the one earned run. The Wildcats, however, could have gotten more in the second when they loaded the bases with only one out in a scoreless game.
That jam prompted LSU pitching coach David Grewe to make a trip to the mound after Ranaudo went 2-0 on Kevin Wager. Whatever he told his young pitcher worked because the six-foot-seven, 231-pound right hander fanned Wager and then Justin Benczko tapped a ball in front of the plate that Micah Gibbs fired to first for the third out of the inning.
“He just came out there and said to take it one pitch at a time and I really took that to heart,” Ranaudo said. “Gibbs was talking me through it and told me to just settle down and find my release point. The first two innings I was really just inconsistent with my release point, but once I found that then everything started going good.”
From that point on Ranaudo retired five of the next six batters before Carver went yard, and then he retired the next four in a row before giving way to true freshman Matty Ott, who made his first appearance as an LSU Tiger.
All in all, Ranaudo threw 87 pitches and struck out seven and walked two. He said he was pleased with his performance and was encouraged to work out of some tough situations and get better as the game progressed.
“I got better as the game went and I just kept working my fastball and curveball like I had been for most of the day,” said Ranaudo. “It felt good to get it (start) behind me and now I just need to keep improving.”
LSU's relief pitching was just as impressive with Ott and Daniel Bradshaw pitching the final four frames.
Ott went one inning and allowed no hits or walks while striking out two, before handing the ball to Bradshaw, who threw the final three innings and struck out five and allowed only one hit.
“Bradshaw, I thought threw great,” said Mainieri. “That’s what I expected out of Bradshaw. This is what I thought he had a chance to be when we recruited him. I was very, very encouraged. He seemed like he struck out an awful lot of guys and didn’t throw many balls. I was pretty excited about the way he threw.”
LSU jumped on Villanova early for the second day in a row with three runs in the second. Jared Mitchell led off the inning with a single to left and advanced to second on a balk. Sean Ochinko executed the hit and run to perfection and Mitchell scored easily from second. Two batters later, Ryan Schimpf singled to right and scored Ochinko and Landry.
The Tigers struck for two more in the third when Blake Dean led off the inning with a double to the deepest part of the park in left-center. Gibbs followed with a shot to nearly the exact same spot for a standup triple and he scored off DJ LeMahieu’s single to right.
“I thought we got a lot better from yesterday to today,” Mainieri said. “Yesterday was a unique day in the life for all of the people involved with LSU baseball and I thought the kids did a tremendous job focusing. But today was relaxed and the kids were able to go out and let their ability take over. I thought we really improved and if we can keep doing this then we have a chance to be a special team.”
The fireworks were just starting as Landry hit his first homer of the season in the fourth when he laced a shot to the right field gap that hit the top of the wall and bounced over to the other side. While some may have doubted if that one had the juice to get out of the yard his second blast two innings later was never in doubt as it cleared the wall in right center and scored Chad Jones, who had singled to right.
“The first was one was pretty much a liner that I got out of the park and I wasn’t sure if it was going to get out,” Landry said. “The second one I kind of figured it was going to get out and I didn’t have to worry about it hitting the top of the wall like the first one.”
The offense picked back up two innings later and this time it came from some newcomers.
“You just got to smile at them when your first AB (at bat) of your career you hit a bomb and then Hanover gets a big hit,” Schimpf said. “It’s exciting to see young guys that can put it together and step up.”
LSU was led at the plate by Landry (2-4, 3 RBI) and Schimpf, who went 3-for-3 with three singles and 2 RBI. The Tigers banged out 15 hits off three Villanova pitchers and Wildcats’ starter Brian Streilein suffered the loss after giving up five runs with all being earned on seven hits in three innings.
The series will conclude on Sunday at noon with Austin Ross taking the mound for LSU against true freshman Kyle Helsiek of Villanova.