Behind eight innings of work from Anthony Ranaudo, LSU (31-12, 12-7 SEC) topped Auburn 7-3 to take game one of the weekend series on Friday night.
“It was one of the great performances I have had in my time coaching,” Mainieri said.
“It was a really courageous 15 strikeout performance, and he was strong from the start to the finish.”
The Tigers got the scoring started early, seeing Ryan Schimpf double to centerfield on a full-count pitch to open the game.
A Jared Mitchell ground out would advance the junior to third before he would score on a Blake Dean sacrifice fly.
Out to an early 1-0 lead, head coach Paul Mainieri’s decision to start freshman Austin Nola at shortstop and keep Schimpf in the rotation was showing signs of strength.
Schimpf, who gave his second base spot up to DJ LeMahieu at the start of the week, took over for Dean as the designated hitter, moving Dean back into left field, while keeping Schimpf in the offensive lineup.
“Things are really not too different for us, and we all know that it is about who can get the job done,” Schimpf said. “If I can help the team out, whether at the plate or in the field, then I will.”
The second inning would see Auburn strike back by way of a Casey McElroy home run to right centerfield, bringing the game back to even.
While Ranaudo showed dominance early with nine strikeouts through four innings of work, he would give up another solo shot in the fourth, this time a full-count home run off the bat of Brian Fletcher, giving the visitors the 2-1 advantage.
Yet, LSU would counter quickly.
Tyler Hanover walked on four straight pitches to open the bottom of the frame, followed by a Mikie Mahtook single down the left field line.
The throw would see Hanover safe at third and Mahtook advance to second, putting a pair of runners in scoring position with no outs.
Micah Gibbs would swing on the second pitch he saw from Jon Luke Jacobs, grounding out to second base and advancing both runners to bring the scoring back to even.
Nola then reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Mahtook on a throwing error and giving LSU back the lead, 3-2.
Hunter Morris would add another solo home run to Ranaudo’s card in the sixth, giving the New Jersey right-hander three earned runs by way of three solo shots on four hits through six frames.
“It was a little frustrating giving up the three home runs, but I was throwing a lot of strikes, and that happens,” Ranaudo said.
“We are slowing the game down on offense, and they are coming around. The comfort that they give me out on the mound allows me to do my job.”
On cue, run support would come to the aid of the LSU starter once more in the bottom of the frame.
Buzzy Haydel’s lead-off walk on four pitches ended Jacobs night, seeing the right-hander finish with four runs allowed, three earned, on five hits and six walks.
Bradley Hendrix entered the game for the visitor’s, giving up a single and a walk to the first two batters he faced. A double play would give him breathing room, yet Haydel would score from third on the play.
LeMahieu followed with a single to centerfield, scoring Schimpf from third and extending the LSU lead to 5-3.
Schimpf would record an RBI in the following frame by way of a fly out to center, scoring Gibbs from third and moving the LSU advantage to three runs with two innings to play.
Nolan Cain relieved Ranaudo (5-2) in the ninth, seeing the right-hander finish with three earned runs on six hits. His 129-pitch count was his highest total as a Tiger.
“He definitely wanted to go in the eighth, and he felt strong until the end,” Mainieri said. “It was really just a remarkable performance.”
Cain lasted just one-third on an inning, allowing a pair of hits on three batters before giving way to Matty Ott.
The freshman finished the visitor’s off with two strikeouts to end the game, earning his ninth save on the season.
The two teams will be back in action for game two tomorrow at 3 p.m. at Alex Box.