The LSU baseball team used a pair of home runs to power a six-run fourth inning and clinch a weekend sweep of visiting service academies with a 10-3 win Sunday afternoon against Air Force at Alex Box Stadium.
The Tigers (3-0) finished with 11 hits, four of which went for extra bases, and outscored their opponents 25-3 this weekend. They swept a pair against Army to open the season Saturday.
It was a dominant performance. But for the first time all weekend, LSU trailed as it came to the plate in the fourth inning after Air Force (2-2) scored a pair of runs in the top half.
LSU didn’t wait long to answer.
"We had to see how we were going to respond, and we come back the bottom of the inning and get six runs," senior second baseman Cole Freeman said.
Two batters into the inning, junior right fielder Greg Deichmann clubbed a game-tying two-run homer into the right-field bleachers. It was a low line drive that cut through a strong wind blowing from right to left and somehow stayed high enough to clear the fence.
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“I just squared it up really well,” he said. “It was kind of one of those that was a violent swing.”
That violent swing resulted in his second home run of the weekend. That was the type of production coach Paul Mainieri was worried he might be without after Deichmann was struck in the face by a pitch in practice Feb. 10.
Mainieri tried urging the left-handed Deichmann to use the wind to his advantage and look for a ball to hit the opposite way.
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“He smokes that one into the right-field stands. He comes to the dugout, and I said, ‘You’re not very coachable,’ ” Mainieri said. “That ball was a missile, wasn’t it?"
The score was still tied when freshman third baseman Josh Smith came to bat with runners on the corners and two outs. In his first at-bat, he missed his first career home run by a few feet, the ball being hauled in at the warning track for a loud out.
Not this time. Air Force pitcher Jacob DeVries made a mistake with an 0-2 pitch, and Smith pummeled it. He pumped his fist as the ball settled into the right-field seats for a three-run, go-ahead homer.
What Mainieri liked most about Smith's home run was that it came shortly after he made a costly error in the top half of the inning.
“He showed what he’s made of, the moxie that he has,” Mainieri said. “That’s what winners do, and you can tell Josh Smith has that about him.”
Freeman, who finished the weekend with a .600 batting average after picking up two hits in each game, capped the inning when he doubled and then scored from second base on a wild pitch to give LSU a 6-2 lead it wouldn’t give up.
“The only reason I went was because I knew Antoine (Duplantis) had two strikes on him and two outs,” Freeman said. “All I saw when I hit third (base) was the catcher standing straight up, and he wasn’t making an attempt for a ball. I weighed the options and took off.”
Freshman Eric Walker (1-0) was fantastic at the start, striking out five in three perfect innings. But he ran into trouble in the fourth when he stopped locating his pitches.
He gave up his first hit to Air Force’s Nic Ready, then followed that by walking Tyler Jones on eight pitches. Jones fouled off a pair of two-strike pitches before Walker lost him on a 3-2 breaking ball.
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The first Air Force run came across on an error by Smith, who bobbled a ground ball and then threw wide of second base on a potential double play ball. That opened the door for Tyler Zabojnik to rope an RBI single into center.
But Walker soon settled in. He got out of the inning with a 6-4-3 double play, then had a perfect fifth inning to finish his outing and earn his first win.
Not bad by any stretch, but Mainieri said he’s capable of better.
“He’s got to be a little better, but I thought he was pretty good for his first start out there,” he said.
LSU added to its lead in the sixth inning, when Freeman ripped his sixth hit of the weekend into left-center to score Smith, another in the seventh on Jake Slaughter’s RBI single and two more in the eighth on Kramer Robertson’s two-run double.
The Tigers visit UNO at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (CST).