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LSU starting pitcher Cam Sanders (49) pitches against Southern, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, at LSU's Alex Box Stadium in Baton Rouge, La.

Advocate staff photo by HILARY SCHEINUK

LSU was already benefiting from the return of its star center fielder and the best outings of the year from two pitchers who had gotten off to a rough start in 2018, and Southern contributed to the effort in LSU's 8-2 win. 

Southern (4-8) committed three errors and allowed 11 LSU base runners to reach by walk or hit by pitch, compared to zero errors and three free passes by LSU. Only one of the eight runs scored by LSU (9-4) came home on a base hit. 

"I challenge our guys every day to just come out and play a clean game, and we’ve yet to do that," Southern coach Kerrick Jackson said. "I’m trying to convince them that if we play clean, we put ourselves in position to be in a lot of games. Those guys played cleaner than we did today."

Junior right-hander Cam Sanders (1-0) turned in his best outing in an LSU uniform, striking out eight batters in 5⅓ innings against Southern Tuesday. 

"I just kind of let everything go, cleared my mind, focused up and I was able to execute," Sanders said.

The previous week, Sanders struggled with his command for the second straight outing, leading LSU coach Paul Mainieri to question whether he deserved another opportunity to start. 

But Sanders was sharp Tuesday. He cruised through his first four innings, going to a three-ball count only once in that span, using an effective mix of his fastball and curveball against the Jaguars lineup. 

"I thought he threw an awful lot of strikes right from the start, and that set the tone for the game," Mainieri said.

Sanders settled into a strike-throwing groove midway through his start. He was at his best in the fourth inning when he needed just 10 pitches to strike out the Southern side. All eight of Sanders' strikeouts Tuesday were swinging. 

Southern ended Sanders' shutout bid thanks to center fielder Javeyan Williams' speed.

Williams snapped a streak of 11 straight batters retired by Sanders when he was hit by a pitch. He then stole second — although LSU called a pitch out on the play — and stole third. Williams scored when he aggressively broke for home on a wild pitch that was only a few feet out of LSU catcher Nick Coomes' reach. 

"When we get on base, we have a chance to manufacture runs without hits," Jackson said.

Bobby Williams brought the tying run to the plate for Southern in the sixth when he shot a two-out RBI single back up the middle against LSU reliever Todd Peterson, but Peterson got Jaguars shortstop Tyler LaPorte to ground out and end the frame.

Peterson earned the save, striking out six in 3⅔ innings.

LSU center fielder Zach Watson, who had missed the last nine games with an oblique injury, played well in his first game action since opening weekend.

Watson doubled down the left field line in his first at bat and the wind held up what might have otherwise been a grand slam to left-center field in his second at bat. 

"It felt amazing to get that first one out of the way," Watson said.

He added an RBI when he scored Antoine Duplantis with a two-out single he rocketed back up the middle in the fourth inning off Southern reliever Markaylon Boyd. 

Watson finished 3-for-5, stole a career-high three bases and successfully fielded all four of his chances in center field. 

Follow Luke Johnson on Twitter, @ByLukeJohnson.