Tigers break out the brooms

The chilly temperatures combined with the brisk wind blowing from left to right did not make for ideal conditions for the hitters on Sunday. After scoring 12 runs on Friday and 11 on Saturday, the top-ranked Tigers scored only six on Sunday, but that was all they needed to sweep the series with a 6-3 win over Villanova.


Ryan Schimpf slammed his first homer of the year with a shot to right field and DJ LeMahieu ripped two triples and drove in two runs to lead the Tigers to victory.


Villanova did not go down easy and kept many of the 5,994 fans that showed up in their seats until late with two runs in the eighth that turned a 5-1 LSU lead into a 5-3 ballgame.


Redshirt freshman Spencer Matthews took over for Ben Alsup, who had relieved LSU starter Austin Ross in the seventh, and the Wildcats ripped three straight one-out hits before Paul Mainieri went to Paul Bertuccini out of the bullpen with a runner on third.


Bertuccini walked Wesley Borden to put runners on the corners and then proceeded to strike out Matt McFolling and Kyle Carver to end the threat.


LSU added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth with a Blake Dean sacrifice fly to right that plated Leon Landry, and after issuing a one-out walk in the ninth Bertuccini retired the last two Wildcats to pick up his first save of the year.


“I told our team last night after the game that we’re going to come and work hard in pre-game practice and get ourselves focused,” Mainieri said. “I predicted that it would be a 5-2 game and I wasn’t far off.


“I didn’t think we played terrible today. I thought Austin Ross threw well and we played really good defense. We had the one error by DJ (LeMahieu) but otherwise I thought we played good defense. We didn’t swing terrible but we had three innings where we didn’t finish the inning and it kept them in the game…But you’re not going to win every game by 10 runs.”


For the third day in a row LSU got a good performance from its starting pitcher. Ross gave the Tigers six solid innings in picking up the victory as he struck out four, walked one, and yielded one run that was earned on four hits.


Ross, a sophomore right hander, worked out of jams in three of the six innings and faced the minimum at the plate in the other three frames.


The Shreveport, La.-native retired the first five batters that he faced but Villanova took their first lead of the weekend in the second. Carver ripped a two-out double to left and Kevin Wager drove him in on a shot to center that was out of the reach of a diving Landry for a standup triple.


Villanova left fielder Matt Szczur was thrown out at the plate while trying to steal home to end the third inning, and then the Wildcats loaded the bases in the sixth.


Szczur and Joe Cotter had back to back singles to open the sixth and after a sacrifice bunt Dain Hall walked. Borden then hit a shot to third but Tyler Hanover threw home to nail Szczur. Matt McFolling flied out to Chad Jones in left to end the inning and that was a day for Ross.


“We talked about it after I was out of the game about how important it was to be put in a situation like that where you get in a jam and have to work your way out of it,” Ross said.


Ross had relied on his fastball and breaking pitch most of the day and he went back to the basics when the Wildcats loaded the bases.


“I threw mostly fastballs to get ahead of the guys,” he said. “I wanted to get ahead and throw strikes then let the guys behind me do like they always do – make the plays.”


After Villanova took the early lead, LSU got on the board in the third when Schimpf ripped a two-out solo shot to left that got up in the wind and it never had a chance to stay in the park.


The dinger by Schimpf ratted Villanova’s starting pitcher Kyle Helisek as the true freshman walked Blake Dean and Micah Gibbs. LeMahieu followed with his second triple of the series with a shot to the left field gap that scored Dean and Gibbs for a 3-1 LSU lead.


LSU added two more in the fourth and chased Helsiek after a pair of infield singles pushed two more across. Chris McGhee, who doubled with one out and stole third, scored on Landry’s infield single that he barely beat out. Landry swiped second then Schimpf beat Carver to the bag at first and Landry scored all the way from second.


LSU threatened again in the fifth when LeMahieu laced his second triple of the day and third for the series. He was left standing on third though, when Gibbs was caught looking at a third strike.


Half of the Tigers’ eight hits on Sunday went for extra bases and that was the theme of the weekend as 16 of their 33 hits were extra base hits.


“I think we’re seeing the ball well, especially for the first weekend and I think we’re only going to get better,” said LeMahieu.


Villanova pitching kept LSU in check at the plate by limiting the Tigers to only eight hits. Josh Eidell, who relieved Helsiek in the fourth, went 4 1/3 innings and allowed only two hits and one run that was earned.


LSU was led at the plate by Schimp, who added a pair of singles and two walks to go with his homer, and LeMahieu’s 2-for-3 showing.


Over the three-game series, Schimp batted .700 (7-10), with four doubles, a homer and six RBI, while LeMahieu batted .555 (5-9) with three triples and three RBI.


“It’s good for the team to get on a roll like this and to come out and swing the bats like we did,” said Schimpf. “Pitching did great and I think everyone did well. It was a good opening weekend.”


Helsiek suffered the loss for Villanova and he went 3 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and five runs with all of them earned. He walked five and struck out one in his first collegiate outing.


LSU returns to action on Wednesday when Southern travels across town to take on the Tigers at 6:30 p.m.

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