When it comes to LSU sports statistics, Saturday night served as a milestone.
9, 131 fans packed into the new Alex Box Stadium to see the Tigers take on the Gators, a number that marked highest attendance in LSU baseball history.
“It felt like the most fans we had gotten all year,” said head coach Paul Mainieri. “I was really proud to be a Tiger, because these past two nights have been exciting for the program.”
Of course, with the park in its’ opening run, the statistical feat has been reached on a number of occasions this spring.
However, there something was different about Saturday night.
Plain and simple, there seemed to be a bit more on the line.
Yet, if there were any reason to be nervous headed into the evening’s showdown with No. 9-ranked Florida, the home squad showed no signs of it.
It all started on the mound, where veteran right-hander Louis Coleman (10-2, 2.45 ERA) worked another magnificent performance.
“When you open the dictionary to look up the definition of a leader, a picture of Louis should be right there for you,” Mainieri said with a grin. “I wish I could pitch him every night, because he was unbelievable.
“He never fails,” he added. “He always rises above the challenge.”
The senior worked eight innings and allowed just four hits for the shutout. He struck out seven batters and walked just one Gator on 123 pitches.
Ryan Schimpf started the night at the plate without much hesitation, hitting a solo home run to jump-start the Tigers in the bottom of the first inning. His 15 home runs are good for best on the team.
“I was just looking for something to hit the other way, and I jumped on the pitch when it came,” he said.
Blake Dean, who has been even hotter than Schimpf at the plate over the last month, doubled to left center to follow the score. After he advanced to third on a DJ LeMahieu ground out, the junior scored on a wild pitch.
Schimpf stepped up again in the third with a single to center to start the frame. He advanced to third on a single by Dean before scoring on a ground out by Tyler Hanover, which extended the lead to 3-0.
The following four frames, however, would see a halt in the action with just three hits combined between the two sides.
“To be honest, I did not even realize I had given up just one hit during the stretch,” Coleman said. “I was pretty hot with the weather when the game started, so after I settled down I just got into a zone. I guess I was not really thinking about it.”
The eighth inning would be kinder to the home team, seeing LeMahieu tag Gators reliever Jeff Barfield for a double to lead off the frame.
The sophomore, who is batting a team-high .358, advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring the game’s final run on a throwing error by the catcher.
Closer Matt Ott entered the game in the ninth, where he retired the side in order.
With Mississippi State taking another game from Ole Miss, the win extended LSU’s lead in the SEC to a game and a half.
With two games down, the Tiger skipper has his eyes on the sweep.
“I think the way our guys have risen to the occasion this weekend has been amazing, and we should carry that into [Sunday],” Mainieri said. “We have played well and everyone has contributed, and that is what we wanted headed into the series.”