Jared Foster had just entered the LSU weight room when his cell phone buzzed.
It was coach Paul Mainieri. Mainieri wanted Foster to return to Alex Box Stadium to field ground balls.
Foster scrapped working out, took ground balls and – five hours later – started his first game at an infield position in four years at LSU.
“It was good,” a smiling Foster said at the end of the whirlwind day.
Foster played errorless ball at second in his two chances, and the Tigers used a school-record 11 pitchers to shut out McNeese State 7-0 on Wednesday at Alex Box Stadium in a steady, near game-long rain.
LSU, ranked No. 1 in at least one poll, won a 13th straight game and enters Southeastern Conference play 16-1, tied for their best season-opening non-conference mark under Mainieri.
In a tune-up for this weekend’s three-game set against Ole Miss (9-7), Mainieri threw more pitchers in one game than the program has ever used.
“You don’t see that every day, do you?” Mainieri chuckled afterward.
Shortstop Alex Bregman hit his third home run – a three-run blast in the third inning – and the Tigers started a fourth different player at second base this season. Foster, a second baseman in high school in Lake Charles, became Candidate No. 4 for a worrisome position for Mainieri.
Foster, a senior, played second base for the first time since he played a half-inning of it as a freshman. In his three previous years at LSU, he never started somewhere other than outfield or designated hitter.
“I like it,” Foster said. “I feel like I can play anywhere on the field. Good to get over there and make plays.”
Well, two at least. He had a pair of assists in the game, but one was a charging play on a slow-roller in the third inning that he zipped to first base in time.
“I think … when it came down to it, it’s just instincts,” Foster said. “That’s coming back to me. I’ve been playing it my whole life. Just going to try to field it cleanly and get it out of my hand.”
Is he there to stay?
“I’ll sleep on it tonight and see what we’ll do,” Mainieri said.
The Tigers, meanwhile, worked a pitching staff that wasn’t tested much in a three-game sweep at the Houston College Classic last weekend. Mainieri had a goal to use 11 hurlers. He did it when Jesse Stallings came in to get the last out.
Russell Reynolds, starting his first game in nearly two years, got the win after throwing just two innings. LSU pitchers motored through McNeese’s lineup, retiring 12 straight batters at one point, to continue the bullpen’s shutout streak to 23 innings.
Reynolds was the last reliever to allow a run – he allowed four against Princeton on Feb. 28.
“I knew they’d come in and get the job done,” Bregman said of the bullpen’s streak. “They’re competitors – all of them. It gives us a lot of confidence when we go to them. Our starting pitchers have got us off to great starts. Our bullpen has been tremendous.”
Kyle Bouman, Doug Norman and Austin Bain all pitched perfect innings, and the Cowboys (11-6) had just one hit through the first five innings – a double that left fielder Jake Fraley slipped while tracking down. Norman has, at least temporarily, been moved to the bullpen as LSU’s No. 4 starter role remains open.
Reynolds could be in the mix for that gig, Mainieri said. He allowed just one base runner in his seven batters faced, and Hunter Newman got LSU out of its only real jam. Newman, evolving into a jam-busting reliever, got McNeese second baseman Cameron Toole to popout with runners on second and third in the seventh inning.
“I feel good about our bullpen,” Mainieri said. “I think those guys all know their roles, and they’ve all done the job.”
Sidewinder Collin Strall, Hunter Devall, Alden Cartwright and Parker Bugg saw short late-game stints, and Zac Person and Stallings closed the game to hit the 11-pitcher mark.
“You never think 11 pitchers in nine innings. We did it,” Cartwright said with a grin.
Foster did the job at second.
Mainieri entered the year having concerns at third (Conner Hale has eased those), closer (Jesse Stallings has seven saves) and second. Kramer Robertson, Grayson Byrd and Conner Hale have all had cracks at the position. Byrd, Mainieri suggested earlier in the week, was supposed to start at second for a second straight game.
Instead, the coach called Foster at about 10:30 a.m. Wednesday to take ground balls.
“After I took ground balls, he told me, ‘Look, you feel comfortable over there?’” Foster said. “‘I said, ‘Yeah.’”
Pitcher Brady Domangue may have pitched his final game of his LSU career, Mainieri said. Domangue, a senior from Houma, is suffering from a bulging disc in his back. … Freshman left-handed pitcher Jake Latz’s MRI “looked pretty good,” but he will be shut down for five weeks, the coach said. Mainieri wants to still try to use him this season. He suffered a stress reaction in his elbow during preseason practice. … Hale’s season-long 16-game hitting streak ended Wednesday. He went 0 for 4.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.