LSU pitcher Kyle Bouman figured it would be tough to top last weekend’s performance — the one in which he got a hit in his first career at-bat.
He did a pretty good job of it.
Bouman, fresh off his rousing infield single Saturday, struck out a career-high seven batters, and the Tigers used a three-run seventh inning to blow open a tight game in an 8-1 win over Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday at Alex Box Stadium.
“Felt good. Felt a lot of focus tonight,” Bouman said.
Bouman pitched a four-hitter through four innings and struck out six of his first 12 batters, and reliever Hunter Newman preserved the lead, bailing out the Tigers in a sticky situation in the fifth inning.
Danny Zardon, playing his first game at first base, blasted a 400-foot-plus home run, and Mark Laird had three hits, helping lead LSU (11-1) to an eighth straight victory.
Bouman, a senior demoted to the bullpen to start the year, had a solid outing in his first start of 2015. LSU’s No. 3 starter last season, Bouman is getting a chance to unseat freshman Doug Norman as the Tigers No. 4 starter.
His opening act was a good one.
It followed that infield single he had Saturday in a 15-4 win over Princeton, a chopping hit that he beat out to first base, eliciting an eruption from a jubilant LSU dugout.
Bouman had to borrow Conner Hale’s bat for the hit, and he had not batted in a game in four years, since he was a senior in high school.
On Tuesday night against the Lumberjacks (4-9), he hurled it just as well as he hit it. He said some confidence from Saturday’s single carried over into Tuesday.
Bouman tied his career high with a fifth strikeout in the third inning. He struck out three in the first, and allowed just two singles and a walk through the first three frames.
“I told (Bouman) that there was going to be a time when he was going to go back and get a start and start to develop. I thought he threw the ball really well tonight,” coach Paul Mainieri said. “As well as he’s thrown the ball in a long time.”
He pitched back-to-back perfect innings before trouble in the fifth. Stephen F. Austin’s Dan O’Neill had an infield single and came home on Hunter Wilson’s RBI triple. Bouman walked his last batter, handing Newman a jam — men at first and third with no outs and LSU leading 2-1.
Newman retired the final three batters, holding the tying run at third base by inducing a flyout to short left in foul territory, a popout to shortstop and a lineout to right.
“I’m just doing what coach needs. I’m playing my role,” said Newman, a sophomore from Georgia.
Mainieri said last week that his staff was searching for a reliever who can enter a game and bail the Tigers out of a jam. Newman has done it in his last two outings. In the first game Saturday against Princeton, Newman struck out his first batter to end the sixth inning and strand a runner at second base.
“I thought the key to the game... was the job that Hunter Newman did when he came in with a runner on third and nobody out,” Mainieri said. “That was a pivotal part of the game, I thought. And Newman was just the first of a really outstanding bullpen performance by our guys.”
Zardon pushed aside his struggles at third base — he was moved from third to first — and had a good day at the plate. He crushed the first pitch he saw in the second inning, smashing the ball completely out of the park.
It soared well over the metal bleachers in left-center field, passing to the right of the Alex Box scoreboard.
“That was a bomb, wasn’t it?” Mainieri said afterward.
According to LSU’s TrackMan technology, the pitch had an estimated carry of 427 feet.
“I smoked that real well,” Zardon said. “I looked up and it kept going.”
Chris Chinea had an infield single that scored Laird in the first inning, and Hale, who played third base without issues, cracked an RBI double in the third to bring home Alex Bregman, who walked.
LSU had just four hits through the first four innings, but blew open a somewhat tight game with three runs in the seventh. Zardon scored on a wild pitch, and Papierski and Laird drove in runs.
It’s a quick turnaround for LSU. The Tigers host Grambling at 3 p.m. Wednesday before heading to their first road tests of the season at the Houston College Classic. They meet Houston on Friday, Baylor on Saturday and Nebraska on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.