Right-hander Nolan Cain (1-0) earned his first win of the season for the Tigers. The senior relieved starter Ryan Byrd in the fifth inning and fired 1.2 scoreless innings without surrendering a hit and struck out one. Fellow right-handers Jordan Nicholson, Paul Bertuccini and Matty Ott combined to allow only one hit in the final three innings and did not give up a run to hold off the Crimson.
“We were fortunate to win this game,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We won the game because we had super relief pitching tonight. They all pitched great in a one-run game, but Harvard out-hit us tonight, and three of those hits were by Buzzy Haydel and the other was by Tyler Hanover, who came off the bench.
“Unfortunately, I just didn’t see the intensity and the effort that we need to have. I thought Harvard played very inspired, and give credit to their kids. They came out and played a little harder than we did, but somehow we won the game.”
The Tigers took an early 1-0 lead as catcher Sean Ochinko drove in right fielder Jared Mitchell on an RBI single in the bottom of the first, but the Crimson scored a run in the second to tie it at 1-1 after a wild pitch brought home shortstop Sean O’Hara.
Following a sacrifice fly by centerfielder Leon Landry in the bottom of the second to put the Tigers up, 2-1, Harvard tallied a pair of runs in the fifth to take a 3-2 advantage.
However, LSU struck back in the bottom of the frame to regain the lead. Haydel singled to lead off the inning, and the Tigers loaded the bases after designated hitter Chris McGhee reached on an error and Mitchell walked. Hanover, who pinch hit for third baseman Derek Helenihi, then laced a double into left to score two runs, and the Tigers went up, 4-3.
Meanwhile, the LSU bullpen kept Harvard off the scoreboard after the fifth inning to preserve the victory. Ott recorded his third save of the season after inducing a pop out and fanning two batters in the ninth.
Harvard starter Will Keuper (0-2) was charged with the loss, as he allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits in 4.1 innings with three walks and one strikeout.
The Tigers improved to 18-5 on the year with the victory in the first-ever meeting between the two squads, while Harvard dropped to 2-12.
The two clubs will meet in the final game of a two-game series on Wednesday.