COLUMBIA, Missouri -- Hunter Newman took a gulp of water as Paul Mainieri wrapped him in a hug outside the dugout in the minutes after LSU’s 7-5 win against Missouri.
Fifty-one minutes earlier, Mainieri handed Newman the baseball. LSU led 6-5 with no outs in the seventh inning at Taylor Stadium. It had adjusted masterfully against Missouri senior Reggie McClain, knocking him for 10 hits and a season-high seven earned runs.
“I’m all in,” he thought, handing the ball to Newman. “Not only does he throw strikes, good enough fastball to keep him honest, and he throws strikes on his breaking ball. But the kid has ice in his veins.”
Newman notched the nine-out save, retiring the final seven hitters he faced and permitting one baserunner across the final three innings of a series-opening win where LSU had 13 hits with a baserunner in eight of nine innings.
Facing the leadoff and two-hole hitters for the final two outs, Newman fell behind 3-1 to Kirby McGuire, who prompted Newman’s entrance when he unloaded a solo home run off starter Jared Poche to lead off the seventh inning and cut the LSU lead to 6-5.
Newman tossed three straight strikes, the third of which was grounded into the unoccupied middle of LSU’s infield. Kramer Robertson corralled it, spun, and got the leadoff hitter by a step.
“(Mainieri) just gave me the ball and went at it. I just went out there and pitched and we got the W,” Newman said. “I saw (Robertson) try and time it up, but once he got to it I knew he was going to make the play.”
Added Mainieri: “That takes courage. That takes something extra. And it’s obvious Newman’s got it.”
Mainieri’s reliance on Newman stemmed from seven innings of quality at-bats against McClain, who used his curveball more than the LSU scouting report detailed he would and abandoned his first-pitch fastball philosophy after one time through the LSU order.
McClain needed six pitches to escape the first, where both Deichmann and Beau Jordan were out on the first pitch. Kramer Robertson led off the second with a first-pitch single.
Deichmann hammered the Missouri starter’s first pitch fastball in the fifth inning for an RBI double into the left-center field gap, beginning a streak of four straight two-out hits that ended with Bryce Jordan’s mammoth three-run home run that easily cleared the wall 390 feet away in center field.
“Started hitting his fastball pretty good, so he knew he had to change something up and we were just going to have to change it and match what he was going to throw us,” Bryce Jordan said. “We strung a lot of hits up on the board but at the end of the day, every inning, we’re going to come in here, sit down and say ‘Here’s what he’s doing and here’s the adjustment we need to make.’”
All but two LSU starters had a hit. Five had multi-hit games, including Cole Freeman, who scooted an RBI single through a drawn-in infield for an eighth-inning insurance run to make it 7-5.
“Our guys did an unbelievably great job against one of the best pitchers in our league,” Mainieri said. “And when we hit the three-run homer and we got ourselves a good-sized lead, I’m saying ‘We score six runs in a game, we got to win.’”
Freeman’s hit, a slow-roller through the right side, gifted Newman the luxury of a two-run lead.
It was not necessary.
“You’ve got that feeling when he’s on the mound,” Freeman said, “that it’s lights out.”
Follow Chandler Rome on Twitter @Chandler_Rome