New baseballs in the college game are supposed to bring “Gorilla Ball” back to Alex Box Stadium.
But on Sunday afternoon, LSU was perfectly content slapping singles across the yard.
During a contest in which the Tigers committed four errors and their starter left the mound in the fourth inning, LSU turned to small ball and clutch hitting to pull out a 7-4 victory against Kansas, securing a sweep its season-opening series.
LSU (3-0) drew first blood in the bottom of the first after Mark Laird scored on an RBI groundout by Conner Hale.
Kansas (0-3) responded with two runs of its own after a costly throwing error by LSU freshman third baseman Bryce Jordan and a wild pitch by rookie starter Jake Godfrey.
Sunday afternoon proved to be a rough day for Godfrey, whose first career start was plagued by the sloppy defense behind him. Jordan and Hale combined for three errors during the freshman’s 87-pitch outing.
“I don’t think Godfrey threw that poorly, really,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “We had four misplays early in the game. I thought he did OK. He maintained his poise and it’s something to build on.”
Nonetheless, Godfrey was finished after only 3.2 innings. He allowed two hits and three runs (one earned) while walking three and striking out three. Mainieri replaced him with sophomore right-hander Russell Reynolds in the top of the fourth.
The Tigers’ offense answered back in the bottom of the fifth.
Chris Sciambra walked and Laird singled, and both runners moved into scoring position after a wild pitch. Alex Bregman then lifted a sac fly to right field, and Hale followed with an RBI single to tie the game at 3.
“It felt good to get it going,” Sciambra said. “We’ve been kind of slow the first couple of games. We expect more from ourselves.”
But the poor LSU defense struck again in the top of the sixth.
With runners on the corners and two outs, a slow roller to Bregman resulted in the Tigers’ fourth error of the night, giving Kansas a one-run lead.
In the bottom of the sixth, though, LSU got into the swing of Carnival season, stringing together its own parade of singles.
Sophomore left fielder Jake Fraley led off the frame with a single to right field — and after moving to third on a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch, he scored on an RBI single by Sciambra. Laird, Hale and first baseman Chris Chinea all followed with RBI singles of their own, giving the Tigers the 7-4 lead.
“After we got one (single), it was contagious,” Hale said. “It was back-to-back-to-back, and we just kept going off of that. I feel like we’re capable of putting up a lot of hits and runs every game.”
LSU relievers Russell Reynolds, Hunter Devall, Collin Strall, Zac Person and Jesse Stallings combined for 5.1 innings of one-run ball to help secure the victory.
“We’re going to need the bullpen,” Mainieri said. “We don’t have Aaron Nolas out there who are going to go out there and pitch eight or nine innings every time. That’ll end up telling the tale of the season for us. Everything I saw was very encouraging for us.”
Mainieri said the game didn’t go according to plan, but it was a “good win” regardless.
“Not every game is played perfectly according to the script,” Mainieri said. “If that happened, you’d have the perpetual game that never ended ... but at least we started to show the offense that we need to be.”