HOUSTON — Grayson Byrd began preparing for his first career position start Saturday night.
“Coach (Paul Mainieri) kind of gave me a little nod yesterday like, ‘Hey, you ready to play?’ And I was just like, ‘Yeah, let’s go,’ ” Byrd said.
Byrd started at second base in LSU’s 4-2 win over Nebraska on Sunday afternoon as the Tigers capped a three-game sweep at the Houston College Classic.
Byrd, the son of former LSU pitcher Paul Byrd, turned a pressure-packed double play, drove in a run and made five assists look easy. He did it all while his father watched from inside Minute Maid Park.
Paul Byrd gave his son a fist bump as Grayson walked off the field.
Grayson drove in an insurance run on a groundout in the ninth inning, but his best play came on defense in the seventh. He turned a double play with the bases full to end the inning and keep LSU (15-1) ahead 3-2 against the Cornhuskers (7-6).
Alex Bregman flipped him a grounder, Byrd stepped on the bag and he smoothly turned to first base just in time to send more than 3,000 LSU fans roaring.
Before the play, LSU fans interrupted “Go Big Red!” chants from Nebraska fans with shouts of “L-S-U!”
“I told Breg, ‘Let’s roll it,’ ” Byrd said. “The fans were going back and forth, and I was getting all amped up and I wanted (pitcher Jake) Godfrey to get a ground ball so bad. The runner was fast, so when we turned the double play, I was pretty pumped up afterward.”
“Thought he played a great game,” Mainieri said. “He played flawlessly in the field. He turned a beautiful double play at a critical time.”
Byrd was the third LSU player to start at second this season, joining Conner Hale and Kramer Robertson. Hale is likely set to remain at third base. Robertson has struggled at the plate, despite Saturday’s two-hit performance against Baylor.
Mainieri had planned to play Byrd at second base heading into the weekend and suggested the position could be a platoon situation. He was noncommittal on the future of the spot after Sunday’s game.
“I don’t know yet. We’ll digest this game and kind of take a deep breath tomorrow and see where we go from here, but certainly it gives us a very viable option,” he said.
No matter what, Byrd will always have Sunday to remember.
“You’re playing in a big league ball park, you know, it’s a cool experience,” he said. “My dad played here, so I was here when I was a little kid. I remember it a little bit being in the stands just hanging out, but ... it’s a whole different experience being on the field and going to work.”
LSU may return to the Houston College Classic in 2017.
Mainieri said he may try to swap a previously scheduled nonconference series in the season’s opening month so the Tigers can make a return trip to an event that drew thousands of purple-clad fans.
The attendance for the first two days of the event was more than 26,000. That’s more than the entire three-day event got the past four years.
“It’s a great experience here,” Mainieri said. “Fan support, stadium, competition — everything about it is a neat thing. I like to go to a tournament one time before I make any other commitments. It was a well-run tournament. I think everybody had a good time.”
Mainieri has much of LSU’s future schedules already set, including a home-and-home three-game series against Texas for 2018 in Baton Rouge and 2019 in Austin.
LSU’s preconference non-SEC schedule is set for 2016 and 2017. The Tigers host Cincinnati, Sacramento State, Fordham and Ball State in 2016. They host Air Force, Maryland, Hawaii and Wichita State in 2017.
Pitcher Jake Latz “felt great” after throwing 25 pitches Thursday, Mainieri said.
Latz, a highly touted freshman, threw for the first time in nearly a month after an elbow injury from preseason practice flared up. He’s suffering from a stress reaction and is set to have another MRI on Monday.
Relief pitcher Brady Domangue had a “procedure” on a bulging disk in his back and will be out two weeks, Mainieri said. Domangue, a senior, has made one appearance this season.
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter @DellengerAdv.