HOOVER, Ala. – LSU wanted to jump on Georgia early in Saturday’s semifinal game but the Tigers weren’t exactly setting the world on fire in their first three games in the 2009 Southeastern Conference Tournament.
Consider it mission accomplished as LSU coach Paul Mainieri’s squad put up a seven-spot in the first inning and added six more runs in the fifth to end the game after seven innings due to the 10-run rule and with LSU blanking the Bulldogs 16-0.
The No. 3-ranked Tigers manufactured all of their runs in the first frame with two outs on the scoreboard and they got quite a bit of help from Georgia’s starting pitcher Alex McCree (4-4).
LSU touched McCree for five hits and he hurt his cause even more by hitting Blake Dean and Tyler Hanover and walking Mikie Mahtook in between.
The big blows came from Jared Mitchell, who entered the contest 1-for-11 in the tournament and struck out six times, and Austin Nola who was hitless in eight at bats in Hoover and batting .216 on the year.
Mitchell doubled to right field and scored Sean Ochinko and Mahtook, while Nola’s two-run triple plated Mitchell and Hanover.
It was the kind of start LSU needed and wanted to force an elimination game later tonight.
“We knew Daniel was going to pitch real well and he did, but we wanted to come out and put up a bunch of runs,” said Nola. “We haven’t swung the bat like we can but tonight we came out and played like we’re capable of playing.”
The run support was critical for LSU starter Daniel Bradshaw who started three games this season with his longest appearance going 5 innings in a relief stint against UNO where he allowed two hits. The sophomore from West Monroe had a career performance with seven superb innings of shutout ball where he allowed only three singles, and struck out three.
“It’s really exciting with us being down to Vandy after the first game and for me to come out and have my best outing in my career here at LSU was really special,” Bradshaw said.
Not even a four hour and 27 minute rain delay before Bradshaw ever took the mound could derail him. However, he’s quick to point out that the seven-run cushion made things a little bit easier and helped him find his comfort zone early despite the fact that the game didn’t resume until 6:25 after starting at 1:30.
“I felt good coming out today and I had to go out there like it’s a 0-0 ballgame, but a seven-run cushion really helps when you go out there to start a game,” said Bradshaw. “The guys came up with a lot of big hits and I was able to keep the ball down and throw strikes and hit my spots.”
Georgia’s Steve Esmonde relieved McCree after the rain delay and kept the Tigers in check for three innings. LSU stranded a base runner in the second through the fourth innings before the fifth inning explosion that was highlighted by Ryan Schimp’s two-run homer to right, and Nola’s third hit of the game on a double to right center that gave the true freshman from Baton Rouge his first three-hit game of his college career.
All in all, LSU tattooed Georgia pitching for 16 runs on 15 hits that included six extra base knocks – four doubles, a triple and one homer. It marked the second time in the tournament that every Tiger starter recorded a hit.
“We came out and we were real aggressive at the plate and kind of jumped on them early,” Schimpf said. “After that Bradshaw threw a great game and it was a team effort all the way around.”
It was by far LSU's most impressive showing of the tournament and if the Tigers can carry it over into Game 2 that starts at 9 p.m. then they will have a rematch with Vanderbilt at noon on Sunday with a tournament championship on the line.
LSU will send Nolan Cain (4-0, 4.94 ERA) to the mound in Game 2, while Georgia will counter with Jeff Walters (2-0, 4.23 ERA) taking the hill for the Dawgs. Due to a decision by SEC officials, tonight’s nightcap is scheduled to go only seven innings.