It the latest display of Daniel Cabrera’s bountiful talent that compelled LSU coach Paul Mainieri to make this statement: He is becoming one of the more feared hitters in the Southeastern Conference.
The freshman was a force in Sunday’s high-stakes win against Alabama, working an excellent at-bat in all three of his trips to the batter’s box: He drew a six-pitch walk, blasted an opposite-field home run with two strikes and boomed a two-out, bases-loaded double to deep right field.
Cabrera laid waste to Alabama pitching all series, going 7 for 10 with six RBIs. Combined with a three-hit night against McNeese on Wednesday, Cabrera was a no-brainer selection for SEC freshman of the week honors Monday.
“What a hitter he’s turned into,” Mainieri said. “… I shudder at the thought of what he might become.”
Which is a way of saying Cabrera is just starting to tap into his vast potential.
Remember, Mainieri asked, at the beginning of the year when Cabrera was often held out of the lineup against left-handed pitchers?
Cabrera entered his freshman season carrying high expectations, but he stumbled out of the gates, going hitless in his first 11 at-bats and his first 12 at-bats against left-handers.
He kept plugging away, finding his stroke by focusing on hitting the ball to the opposite field. Everything started to fall into place.
Cabrera’s strong play lately has elevated his season batting average to .333, and he leads the team with 44 RBIs — 13 coming in his past seven games.
He has also turned into a lethal bat against left-handed pitching. Since his 0-for-12 start, he has gone 16 for 42 (.381) against southpaws, with seven hits in his past 13 at-bats.
“Honestly, it’s just my focus,” Cabrera said. “I’m seeing the ball really good out of the hand. I’m going up there with an approach, and I’m sticking to it.
“Whenever I get two strikes, I’m not panicking, I’m staying within myself and not trying to do too much.”
It is a funny thing: By not trying to do too much, he is doing an awful lot.
In a candid moment after wrapping up a needed series win, LSU coach Paul Mainieri admitted he entered the weekend thinking his pitching staff …
Senior day starters
Though Cabrera was in the midst of the hottest stretch of his young career, Mainieri wanted to make sure twins Beau and Bryce Jordan were in the starting lineup together for Senior Day Sunday at Alex Box Stadium.
Though Bryce Jordan still has a year of eligibility remaining, Mainieri wanted to give him and his family one more opportunity to see the twins starting together. He batted them first and second in the order, then substituted Cabrera for Bryce Jordan when his next turn came up.
“This might be the last time they will ever be in the starting lineup together again,” Mainieri explained. “I wanted them to have that moment. I thought it would mean a lot to their family.”
All three of LSU’s senior position players were in the starting lineup for Sunday’s senior day, including first baseman Austin Bain and catcher Nick Coomes.
Mainieri said he planned to pull Coomes before his at-bat in the sixth inning, but Coomes told the coach he wanted to stay in to hit.
“I said, ‘Really? OK, it’s about time I hear somebody with some spirit, so you get back out there and do something,’ ” Mainieri recalled.
Coomes cracked a one-out double into the left-center gap, igniting a three-run rally that pushed LSU’s lead to five runs.
The seniors combined to go 5 for 11 with two RBIs. Beau Jordan went 3 for 4 and Bain contributed a game-tying home run in the second inning.
Sunday's series finale against Alabama felt like an elimination game to LSU coach Paul Mainieri.
Odds and ends
A 3-1 week was not enough to vault LSU into the top 25 rankings this week, though Collegiate Baseball did rank LSU No. 28 … Bain’s hitting streak ended at 17 games Saturday, when he went hitless in four at-bats. It was the longest hitting streak compiled by an LSU player this season.