The only real trouble that the Tigers (24-8) faced in Wednesday night's bout with GSU (5-25) occurred before a pitch was ever thrown.
Freshman Randy Zeigler, who was slated to get his first career start, decided not to take the mound after going all the way through his bullpen warmups, a move that delayed the start of the game.
“Randy was down to his last warmup pitches and he threw a changeup and felt a pop,” said head coach Paul Mainieri. “I am not real encouraged by it, and he is going to have an MRI in the morning to see if he will have to have any work done.”
Ben Alsup took the place of Ziegler, recording five strikeouts and allowing no runs or hits over four innings of work.
“I thought Ben was the story of the night,” Mainieri said. “He got himself ready really quickly, so I felt like he did a good job for us.”
In a night where Mainieri wanted to test his middle relief in hopes of bridging the gap between his weekend starters and closer Matty Ott, the bullpen remained active throughout.
Nolan Cain entered the game in the fifth frame for Alsup, going one inning and allowing two hits on 17 pitches to record the win.
Chris Matulis, who the Tiger headman said that he has high hopes for in the search for a consecutive bullpen arm, scattered four earned runs on four hits over two innings of work.
“Chris was the one thing that stood out for us on the mound, because he did not have a good night,” Mainieri said. “I am still going to bring him on the road this weekend, but he will have to show me a lot more.
“I will admit that I was a little surprised with how he pitched tonight, so he will need to turn things around.”
The Tigers struck first at the plate in the third by way of a Ryan Schimpf two-run homerun, his seventh of the season.
Consecutive hits by Leon Landry, Mikie Mahtook and Tyler Hanover in the following frame added two more runs, moving the Tigers out to a 4-0 lead.
The seventh inning would provide perhaps the highlight play of the night courtesy of Derek Helenihi.
The junior drove a 1-0 pitch off the wall in right. Yet, when the centerfielder misplayed the ball of the wall, Helenihi saw an opportunity that he did not want to let go to waste.
The homerun extended the Tigers lead to 7-4.
Daniel Bradshaw, Shane Riedie and Jordan Nicholson also appeared in Wednesday night’s game, each doing work from the eighth inning forward.
Bradshaw allowed no hits and struck out two batters in the eighth, while Riedie fanned two more batters in the top of the ninth before Nicholson entered the game to record the Tigers’ final out.
“I thought the kids went out and played hard,” Mainieri said. “I saw some good things from my the pitchers, and I think that I am going to replace Alsup with Nicholson this weekend against Alabama.”
The Tigers travel to Alabama this weekend. Game one of the series is set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Sewell-Thompson Stadium in Tuscaloosa.